June 04, 2020
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BIW unions ask shipyard owner to shut down for 2 weeks amid coronavirus outbreak

David Sharp | AP
David Sharp | AP
Streamers shoot into the air after Irene Hirano Inouye, wife of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, broke a bottle of Champagne on the bow of a warship bearing his name at Bath Iron Works on June 22, 2019, in Bath, Maine.

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, 23 Maine residents have been confirmed positive and nine others are presumed positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.

Leaders of two of the largest unions at Bath Iron Works called on parent company General Dynamics to shut the shipyard for two weeks and send its 8,000 workers home with full pay.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Locals S6 and S7 made the request after the Local S6 union and BIW sparred over General Dynamics’ message say it will allow workers to take up to 80 hours of time off during the coronavirus outbreak, but without pay.

“It is critical that we contain a potential outbreak at the yard and allow these employees to follow public health guidelines to isolate themselves at home and away from the public,” said Chris Wiers, president of IAMAW S6, and Jessica Chubbuck-Goodwin, president of IAMAW Local S7, in a joint statement.

“With 8,000 workers living in all 16 counties in the state, it is critical that we contain a potential outbreak at the yard and allow these employees to follow public health guidelines to isolate themselves at home and away from the public,” he said.

He said much smaller employers in Maine have already announced that they are sending workers home with full pay.

“A multibillion dollar corporation like General Dynamics can afford to do the same,” he said.

A BIW spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Read our full coronavirus coverage here]

The union, which said it didn’t have input into the time off decisions, was responding to a memo earlier today from General Dynamics and Bath Iron Works outlining how the company will manage absences related to the virus.

Local S6 said Bath Iron Works’ plans for the coronavirus are not aggressive enough. It said the “unpaid leave for the next two weeks without penalty” approach does not address the concerns of the spreading virus.

“Large amounts of workers commute to BIW by van or bus each day,” Weirs said. “The large gatherings coming to and from, along with working throughout the shipyard, creates major effects that are now being discouraged throughout the country.”

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