Representatives from Bath Iron Works’ largest union said Tuesday that they have asked a federal mediator to meet with BIW negotiators next week by video.
The request comes in the fifth week of their strike and after a meeting between the federal mediator and the negotiating committee of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6. The union posted the contents of the meeting on its Facebook page.
The union representatives said they and the mediator discussed additional solutions to BIW’s contract proposals that do not violate worker seniority or subcontract work.
“We suggested a meeting in person with BIW’s team, with the suggestion that BIW brings someone with production knowledge and a decision-maker,” the post said.
If BIW agrees to the meeting, the parties will talk by video. The union said it would hear a response in the next few days about the next steps. A BIW spokesperson would only say the company is “fully engaged in the federal mediation process.”
“We are hopeful and anticipate some form of a meeting with BIW by next week,” the union said.
Acrimony between the union and BIW persists. Earlier Tuesday, union President Chris Wiers posted a letter on Facebook to Maine legislators and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention alleging that BIW was bringing in contractors from states with high numbers of coronavirus cases like Mississippi and Alabama and not properly screening them.
BIW posted a response on its website the same day saying it is working closely with the Maine CDC and is implementing certain measures immediately, including requiring contracted temporary employees to test negative for the virus within 72 hours before being allowed to enter BIW facilities and performing random audits to verify that the test results are accurate. Contractors also will have to answer screening questions and have their temperature taken for the first 14 days after they arrive.
While subcontractors were used under the expired contract with BIW, they remain a sore point in the negotiations. On Monday the union said it has written to Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite to clarify whether the Navy endorses the use of subcontractors. Weirs has contended the shipyard has portrayed the Navy as backing the company’s subcontracting.