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Business and Economy

Union Urges Bath Iron Works To Close Shipyard, Give Workers Paid Leave

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Robbie Feinberg
/
Maine Public
Chris Wiers, president of Machinists Local S6, calls on Bath Iron Works parent company General Dynamics to close down the shipyard and offer paid leave to employees at a press conference on Tuesday.

Union leaders at Bath Iron Works are calling on the shipyard’s owner to close down operations and send workers home — with pay — in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, General Dynamics released a statement saying that to limit exposure to the virus, the company would let employees use accrued benefits including vacation or sick leave. The company also offered two weeks of unpaid leave through the end of next week.

But at a press conference Tuesday in Bath, Local S6 Union President Chris Wiers said employees and families could be at risk by going to work.

“We have thousands of people that work here that branch out to all 16 counties in the state of Maine. And I said, ‘They’re going to bring back that disease to those same children they’re trying to protect in the school systems,’” he said.

Jessica Chubbuck-Goodwin, the president of union Local S7, said many employees could be financially stressed if forced to take unpaid leave.

“Six-thousand employees not having a paycheck for two weeks would put an even greater strain on our Maine economy. It could take months for some employees to recover from the impact that just two unpaid weeks would have,” she said.

In a statement, the company says that “neither the Department of Defense nor the Navy has directed us to stop work,” and that it has taken steps to slow the spread of the disease and “ensure the employment security” of its workers.

“We recognize that there may be differences of opinion about the most effective approach to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” the company wrote. “We hope that judgment and personal responsibility will transcend efforts to divide us and add to the anxiety of this complex situation.”