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December 14, 2015

BIW union approves contentious contract

File photo / Tim Greenway The largest union at Bath Irons Works approved a new contract on Dec. 13.
File Photo / Tim Greenway Fred Harris, president of Bath Iron Works, has said the shipyard needs to become more competitive on cost to win future contracts.

The largest union at Bath Iron Works narrowly approved a new contract Sunday, a move the shipyard says will put it in a better position to win an important contract next spring.

Members of Machinists Union Local S6, which represents about 3,600 workers, approved the contract with a vote of 1,343 in favor and 1,045 against.

The four-year contract substitutes $2,500 annual bonuses for pay raises and includes scaled-back proposals from the company on workers taking on additional jobs and the hiring of subcontractors.

Jay Wadleigh, president of Local S6, told the Portland Press Herald that few members were happy with the contract and most reluctantly endorsed it. He said the passing vote was not indicative of the feelings of the workers.

While some workers said the new contract was too important for the future of the Navy shipyard to reject, others who voted against it thought the union was giving up too much.

The Associated Press reported that a shipbuilder from Pittston, Doug Barton, set fire to the 124-page tentative agreement outside the vote at the Augusta Civic Center, saying that contract allowed shipyard owners to “laugh their way to the bank.”

The former contract wasn’t expiring until May.

BIW, a General Dynamics subsidiary, initiated early negotiations in hopes that the concessions from workers will help it win a contract in March to build U.S. Coast Guard cutters. The contract could be worth an estimated $10 billion or more over the next two decades.

Without the contract, the shipyard has said that it could lay off close to 1,200 of it approximately 5,700 workers.

Read more

The future is now: BIW shipyard looks to cut costs to win major Coast Guard contract

Proposed BIW union contract faces resistance despite compromises

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