BIW, Machinists' Union Hold Steady on Third Day of Strike

File image courtesy USN

Published Jun 24, 2020 10:03 PM by The Maritime Executive

Bath Iron Works' management and the leaders of the yard's biggest labor union gave no sign of softening their bargaining positions on Wednesday, the third day of a walkout for the 4,300 shipbuilding members of IAW Local S6. The dispute centers on both wages and work rules, especially the use of non-union contractors within the yard - a critical element for BIW, which is behind schedule on its core contract for the U.S. Navy.

"Since April of 2018, BIW has been clear that a fair contract is one that permits the company to quickly deploy available shipbuilders where they are needed most in order to meet the yard’s obligations to the Navy," BIW said in a statement Wednesday. "We cannot offer a contract that sets this yard up for failure. The status quo must change. We remain willing to meet with the union in an effort to work toward an agreement. The ball is in their court."

 In a letter to union district leader Jay Wadleigh, BIW senior director of human resources Jonathan Mason wrote that the company is not interested in revisiting its proposal on work rules.

"The company does not have a secondary or alternative offer to present, contrary to some of the communications the union put out to employees," wrote Mason. "The company remains willing, however, to meet in an effort to work out an agreement. It just is unclear what we would meet to negotiate over at ths time if the union's position similarly is unchanged."

In a written response, Wadleigh accused BIW of attempting to "mislead the members, and the press." However, he called for a return to the negotiating table so that both sides can get "back to building the highest-quality ships for the United States Navy."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, weighed in Wednesday on the union's behalf. 

“Local S6 members work hard to ensure that our military have the tools they need to be successful. It’s up to us to make sure that those same workers have what they need to accomplish that for their own families," said Biden in a statement. “I urge the Bath Iron Works to come back to the table to make a fair offer to the hardworking men and women.”