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Machinists' Union Leaders Reject BIW Final Offer

Robbie Feinberg
Maine Public
Union members at Bath Iron Works rally outside the shipyard Wednesday amid ongoing contract negotiations.

Contract talks between Bath Iron Works (BIW) and the Machinists' Union Local S6 have broken down.

The union, which represents about 4,300 workers at the shipyard, was presented Saturday with what the company said would be its "last, best, and final" contract offer. Local S6 posted Saturday on its Facebook page that the union unanimously rejects the offer.

Sunday morning, the company sent the following statement to Maine Public: "We’ve negotiated in good faith toward an offer that we believe is fair and positions BIW for the future. The Company will provide additional information concerning its offer over the next several days."

But the union negotiating committee says the delivery of a "last, best, and final" offer is proof the company was not prepared to forge an agreement with workers. They write in a statement that the contract had become a "take it or leave it situation". They go on to say: "They have chosen not to listen and understand how to build ships from the 253 years of shipbuilding experience that sat across the table."

The union has said that members are willing to walk off the job, rather than accept some of the company's proposals. A major sticking point remains the expanded use of more subcontract labor, including for capital projects, which the union argues could undercut better-paying union jobs. Also at issue are proposals which the union says would threaten seniority rights for longtime employees.

Meanwhile, BIW says it needs to use subcontractors in order to keep up with essential work, and that it plans to preserve union positions and hire another 1,000 workers in 2020. The company is also offering 3 percent pay raises each year.

A company spokesperson says the coming days will present an opportunity for people to learn more about the contract before membership is due to vote between June 19 and the 21.

The contract will expire on June 21. If negotiations do not resume, and union members reject the contract, it could then vote on whether or not to strike.

A strike would require a membership vote of 66 percent.

Updated 8:31 a.m. June 14, 2020