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Letters between IAM chairman and General Dynamics president discuss BIW strike

Local S6 of the Machinists Union says the proposed contract allows more outsourcing of work, but the CEO of General Dynamic stands firm in BIW's right to do so.

Letters exchanged by International Association of Machinists (IAM) President Robert Martinez and General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic on Friday left the largest union at Bath Iron Works and the company still at odds over a contract.

Local S6 of the Machinists Union voted overwhelmingly to strike beginning Monday, June 22.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) President Robert Martinez wrote to CEO of General Dynamics, Phebe Novakovic, about the ongoing strike by 4,300 of the company's 6,700 ship builders.

Noisy but peaceful start to strike by largest union at Bath Iron Works

Martinez wrote that the union's major issue with the proposed contract is outsourcing work and "degrading seniority."

Here's an excerpt from his letter:

"The leadership of this union, and more importantly the hard-working men and women of IAM Local S6, will simply not stand for a concessionary contract, especially when our members have made great sacrifices over the years to ensure the success of this company. More recently, this dedicated workforce has risked the health and of themselves and their families to maintain production at BIW during a global pandemic.

Throughout these negotiations, our union has presented a number of viable alternatives to outsourcing. Unfortunately, BIW management seems to be resolute in its goal to continue to take taxpayer dollars with one hand and outsource our members' work with the other. Given the vital role that theses ships play in our national security, we must not allow this work to go to a substandard, under-skilled workforce. Our servicemen and women are counting on our partnership."

Martinez did not mention what alternatives to outsourcing the union presented. 

Novakovic's response cited a good relationship with IAM in the past and continuing to work to do so.

"We must be responsive to changes in our workforce, our shipyard, and to the needs of our customer. We are not currently. There have been numerous unsuccessful attempts to work within the current contract to meet production and hired needs that were met with roadblocks and that now warrant contract changes. 

This contract puts us at a competitive disadvantage by impeding our ability to efficiently leverage all available resources. BIW currently has the right to subcontract, but the process is broken to a degree that harms all of us. Any changes involving seniority are intended to enable the assignment of the right skills and abilities in the right place to meet production needs. 

Under the BIW proposal vast majority of seniority provisions remain intact."

Novakovic said the company is willing to consider alternatives that have not been raised at the bargaining table and encouraged the union to reach out to BIW President Dirk Lesko directly.

Read the entirety of both letters below:

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