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Just more than two weeks into strike by one union, Bath Iron Works announces layoffs

Announcing the layoffs on Tuesday, BIW President Dirk Lesko blamed the interruption of workflow caused by the Local S6 strike

BATH, Maine — Just more than two weeks into a strike by the company’s largest union, Bath Iron Works President Dirk Lesko announced Tuesday the “temporary layoffs” of surveyors and trades inspectors.

In the memo, obtained by NEWS CENTER Maine, Lesko attributed the need for the layoffs to a disruption in workflow created by the strike by Local S6 of the Machinists Union, which began June 22.

As a result of the strike, production levels remain “well below typical operations and even further below where we need to be,” Lesko wrote. “As a result, some functions that directly support production are beginning to run out of work to do. The first functions impacted by this are surveyors and trade inspectors.”

Lesko told the Press Herald in May that BIW was six months behind in production.

BIW hired 1,800 employees in 2019 and hopes to hire 1,000 this year, the company has said. President Dirk Lesko told NEWS CENTER Maine that he wants BIW to grow, but that they can't hire and train workers fast enough.  

The layoffs affect Local S7 of the Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which includes approximately 220 employees.

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is a full service shipyard specializing in the design, construction and support of Navy ships.

Voluntary layoffs will be offered first, and if enough volunteers are not found, involuntary layoffs will be made according to seniority, Lesko wrote.

Calls to Local S7 and the Maine AFL CIO were not immediately returned. BIW did not return a request for additional information and comment.

Last week, Lesko announced that BIW would hire additional subcontractors to work with managers and existing contractors to continue building ships in an effort to avoid falling further behind the production schedule.

Proposed changes to how the company can hire subcontractors, among other issues, led to strained contract negotiations between the company's largest union, Local S6, and BIW management earlier this year, and ultimately resulted in an overwhelming majority of S6 union members voting down a proposed contract and voting in favor of a strike.

"Dirk continues to dig a deeper hole," Chris Wiers, president of Local S6, the union on strike, said Tuesday of Lesko's memo. "Local S6 didn't lead our membership off the job. BIW's last best and final offer overwhelming[ly] forced us off the job. Misrepresentation of the facts continue from Dirk Lesko."

This story will be updated.

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