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Strikers picket outside the district lodge of Local S6 across from Bath Iron Works on June 22 in Bath. Production workers at one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders overwhelmingly voted to strike, rejecting the company’s three-year contract offer Sunday and threatening to further delay delivery of ships. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

BATH — Picketing outside Bath Iron Works continues as the standoff between the shipyard and its largest union enters a second month.

Tim Suitter, Local S6 spokesman, said most union members are in high spirits, but some are getting aggravated because they’re watching the company hire subcontractors to fill their places, while the company still hasn’t attempted to speak with the union’s negotiating committee.

“A lot of people are sad and angry and don’t understand why they’re going down this road when they have skilled workers waiting to go back to work,” said Suitter. “The company is paying to bring these people in, and meanwhile their own employees are out on the streets.”

Local S6, which represents 4,300 of the company’s 6,700 employees, began its strike on June 22 after rejecting a three-year contract offer from the company. Sticking points included proposed cuts to seniority privileges and, especially, a proposal to allow the shipyard to hire more non-union subcontractors.

On Thursday, the union posted on social media an advertisement from Mississippi-based Craft and Technical Solutions, LLC, a company that pairs industrial and marine workers with employers. The advertisement calls for a variety of machinists including electricians, welders and shipfitters, to work on a 6-month project in Bath. The advertisement does not specifically identify BIW.

According to the advertisement, CTS will cover flight and hotel costs, and workers will receive $28 hourly or higher, depending on skill level, and a $60 daily stipend for meals.

David Hench, BIW spokesman, declined to comment on the shipyard’s involvement with CTS.

The union wrote BIW’s call for subcontractors during the strike shows Local S6 workers “are clearly not valued or appreciated and are just a number on a faceless badge.”

“We have a saying in the shipyard, hero to zero,” the union wrote online. “That’s exactly what we are in BIW’s eyes. From essential employees with a critical mission during COVID-19, to now greedy shipbuilders on the picket line as BIW continues to scab our work.”

Dirk Lesko, BIW president, released a statement July 2 that states the company is hiring additional subcontractors to compensate for the 4,300 machinists on strike.

“Even before the strike, the impact of attrition and COVID-19 had driven our manufacturing staffing more than 500 people below what was needed,” Lesko said. “We have sought more efficient access to subcontractors through these negotiations because the focused and timely introduction of skilled people on a temporary basis can help break bottlenecks to the flow of production through the yard.”

Union officials and members have said the strike could be resolved if the company changed the language in the proposed contract that would allow the shipyard to hire subcontractors without notifying the union.

Suitter said the company still refuses to make changes to its “best, last and final offer” that was rejected by 87% of union members, leaving union officials little room to try to find a solution.

The union will continue meeting with a federal mediator, who was brought in to help restart negotiations between the two parties after they reached an impasse, according to Suitter.

Hench said the company is also speaking separately with the mediator and is “looking forward to finding a solution that restores our competitiveness and respects the needs of our valued workforce.”

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents Local S6, asked Congress members Tuesday to step in and press the shipyard to negotiate a fair contract with the union.

In his letter, IAM President Robert Martinez Jr. pointed to the shipyard’s demands to “expand its use of low-wage, out-of-state contractors, without any recourse for the union. … BIW is now seeking a blank check to subcontract additional work with no input from union workers.”

The previous contract between the union and the company allowed subcontracting after a joint review period by both parties.

“In these uncertain times, General Dynamics should be doing everything in their power to support this vital mission,” Martinez wrote. “Instead, the company has presented these workers with a slap in the face; proposing to subcontract much of their work to out-of-state contractors and jeopardize our members’ safety, health and livelihoods.”

Sen. Susan Collins’ office released a statement Thursday saying she is a strong advocate for BIW employees and “has encouraged federal mediation efforts and hopes both sides will quickly resolve their differences so that BIW’s employees can return to work and continue to deliver much-needed ships to our Navy.”

Sen. Angus King could not be reached for comment Thursday.

US Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree both expressed support for Local S6 members on strike and stood by that message Thursday.

“The more time passes, the clearer it gets that management needs to put new ideas on the table and work with the union to get back on schedule,” said Golden. “Bringing in out-of-state contractors makes it harder to resolve the strike, it’s bad for the shipyard, and it undermines Maine jobs.”

“It’s well past time for management at BIW to meet Local S6 at the negotiating table and work out a fair agreement that secures the long-term success of the shipyard and allows the best shipbuilders in the world to get back to work,” Pingree wrote Thursday.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also urged BIW to negotiate a fair contract shortly after the strike began last month.

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