Bath Iron Works President Dirk Lesko blames an ongoing strike involving the boat yard’s largest single union for forcing the “temporary layoffs” of the company’s surveyors and trades inspectors ― some 25 to 30 workers could be laid off, according to one union representative.
News Center Maine reported that Lesko stated in a memo on Tuesday that the layoffs were forced by the disruption in workflow caused by Local S6 of the Machinists Union’s strike, which began June 22. A subsidiary of General Dynamics, BIW is among the Navy’s biggest shipbuilders and employs 6,800 workers, while the union has more than 4,000 members. The layoff comes after Lesko said last week that he will bring in subcontractors to join existing contractors to avoid falling further behind on production.
The strike is in its third week and is the first at Bath Iron in more than 20 years. About 87 percent of the union’s voting members opted to reject a three-year contract with BIW, citing subcontracting, health benefits and overtime, among other issues, on June 21. The strike began the next day. A federal mediator was due to start work this week to end the lingering stalemate.
News Center Maine reported that 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.”
The layoffs target some of the 220 members of Local S7 of the Machinists and Aerospace Workers, according to News Center Maine. A spokesman for BIW, David Hench, did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday on how many workers will be laid off, but George Edwards, Local S7 assistant directing representative, said 25 to 30 workers could be laid off, according to the Times Record.
Everyone from local leaders to former Vice President and likely Demcratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has weighed in on the strike, generally asking both sides to get back to the table as soon as possible to mitigate the impact of the strike on the state’s economy, particularly amid the global pandemic. The company had begun making machines that make specialized swabs used for tests for the new coronavirus.