Union members at Bath Iron Works rally outside the shipyard Wednesday amid ongoing contract negotiations. Credit: Robbie Feinberg | Maine Public

Union leaders at Bath Iron Works said they are prepared to strike in order to get their demands met, as a deadline fast approaches to reach a new contract agreement with the company.

On Wednesday, hundreds of workers rallied outside of the shipyard, many holding signs with messages saying “Respect Your Workers” and “No More Concessions.”

Chris Wiers, the president of Local S6, the largest union at the shipyard, said that he’s concerned that current proposals from the shipyard’s parent company, General Dynamics, could bring in more out-of-state subcontractors to the yard and threaten seniority for many longtime workers.

“With proposals like this that the company’s put out, it’s inevitable, it really looks like they’ll put this membership on strike with these proposals,” Wiers said. “So I think this is the first of many times you’ll see us on the sidewalks.”

Richard Buzzell, who’s worked at the Bath shipyard for more than three decades, said he came out to rally because he doesn’t want to see the company reduce any of the union seniority rights for longtime workers like himself.

“And for them to move you anywhere they want to, move you to another facility or change shifts, regardless of how many years you have in the shipyard,” he said. “I put 31 years of my blood, sweat, and tears into that place. And for them to say that my seniority isn’t worth anything — you know what I’m saying?”

In a statement, the company said that its current offer would increase wages and continue pensions, and that union seniority is “still preserved for the most important work-related events.”

The company said that it’s also committed to continuing to hire employees into union-represented positions in the future.

“The company believes common sense changes to existing processes will ensure it can complete its work and win new contracts, while still respecting the needs of our employees,” the statement reads. “Added elements like guaranteed wage increases and market-leading benefits will continue to make good Bath Iron Works jobs even better.”

The current union contract is set to expire on June 21st.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.