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Union Negotiating Committee Rejects Bath Iron Works' Contract Offer

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File image courtesy USN

By The Maritime Executive 06-14-2020 02:37:00

The negotiating committee for Bath Iron Works' largest union has rejected BIW's “last, best and final offer," raising the prospect of a protracted labor dispute. 

The yard's final offer would have provided a three percent per year raise for all workers while increasing employee health care contributions by five percent annually. It also would have increased the pension contribution rate slightly over the three-year term of the contract. 

In a fiery announcement posted on its Facebook page Saturday, Machinists' Union Local S6 said that its negotiators had reviewed and rejected the new contract. 

"As the committee expected, the company never had intentions of coming to an agreement and the proof is in the last, best, and final proposal. This has become a take it or leave it situation," alleged Local S6. "Unfortunately, we believe this is just the start of a tough fight. Our resilience will be tested, but we must remember what we are fighting for and how important it is for not only you and your families but for all of those who stand beside us in solidarity."

A spokesman for Bath Iron Works told AP that the yard has "negotiated in good faith toward an offer that we believe is fair and positions us for the future.”

A BIW spokesperson noted that the union's membership has yet to vote on the contract proposal.

The union's contract was originally set to expire in mid-May, but it agreed to extend it through June 21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Local S6 president Chris Weirs had previously warned that the membership would strike over concerns about the yard's response to COVID-19 cases among the workforce; BIW told the Bangor Daily News that at one point in April, worker attendance fell by a third relative to normal levels. 

Bath Iron Works is running behind schedule on its core contract for the Navy, the construction of the service's workhorse Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Earlier this year, it lost a bid to build the Navy's future frigate (FFG(X)) class, and in 2016 it lost its bid for the U.S. Coast Guard's future Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) class. It also has seen procurement plans for its futuristic Zumwalt-class destroyer sharply curtailed from 32 ships to three amidst cost overruns and delays. This year, the Pentagon raised the possibility of reducing acquision of further Arleigh Burke-class hulls in order to free up funds for smaller, more affordable optionally-manned vessels - a move that would have an impact on BIW's bottom line.