One day after saying mediated contract negotiations were breaking down, striking union shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works said talks progressed on Wednesday to a tentative agreement on eight points, including a “positive outcome” on one of the union’s top issues.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6, the shipyard’s largest union with 4,000 members, posted the news on its Facebook page on Thursday. The post said the union’s negotiating committee could not reveal more details under the guidelines of a federal mediation process that it called “incredibly frustrating, challenging and emotional.”
The union added that the mediator has been “a decisive influence” in the talks. A BIW spokesperson said he had no comment on the negotiations at this time. The union and BIW were in their third day back at the negotiating table with a federal mediator on Wednesday.
The main issues of contention in a new contract are BIW’s request to bring in subcontractors to catch up on work and the union’s desire to keep seniority preferences for its members. The shipyard has cited its being at least six months behind in its work for needing the subcontractors.
Among the other tentative agreements are the union being able to jointly develop merit raise criteria and no change to holidays.
Interactions between the union and BIW management had become increasingly acrimonious since the union started to strike on June 22. What initially started as back-and-forth comments in the media about who was to make the first move to talk turned into BIW filing a federal complaint against the union on July 10 for what they alleged was a threat against union members who crossed the picket line.
The union has asked Congress to intervene and several Maine local and national leaders have weighed in on the strike. The union and BIW each met with a mediator last month.
It’s the first strike in 20 years at Bath Iron Works, one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders and a major employer in Maine, with 6,800 workers. The shipyard builds guided-missile destroyers.