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BIW union workers aren't backing down on contract negotiations

The last major strike at BIW was in 2000 and lasted 55 days.

BATH, Maine — Contract talks between Bath Iron Works and its largest Union stretched through the day Friday, which was scheduled to be the final day of talks. Leaders of Machinists Local S-6 say the prime issue in dispute centers around the company’s desire to have greater freedom to hire sub-contractors to perform some shipbuilding jobs.  

BIW President Dirk Lesko says it needs to be able to bring in those workers as needed to help reduce a significant backlog in the construction of Navy destroyers.

Lesko says work is behind schedule on several ships, one as much as nine months behind, and that the Navy cited that as a factor. In rejecting BIW’s bid to build a new line of frigates, Lesko says they want to use subcontractors when needed to catch up, but not replace regular BIW workers.

“Either we are not communicating well, or for some reason, others aren’t listening,” Lesko said Friday. “We are not proposing to use subcontractors to do away with jobs we have at BIW. We are hiring in every trade and intend to continue doing that...there is no intent to use subcontractors to get people laid off.”

But union leaders see it very differently and say the expansion of subs is a threat.

Tim Suittee, a communicator for Local 6, said the company already has enough flexibility.

“The feeling in the shipyard is there is no more flexibility. The flexibility they’re talking about is bringing in people to do our jobs. How do you train people to do these jobs if you’re looking to bring in subcontractors?“

Talks were ongoing late Friday afternoon. Union leaders have said they are ready to strike if needed.

The last major strike at BIW was in 2000 and lasted 55 days.

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