Bath Iron Works and its largest union restarted negotiations Monday with the help of a federal mediator. The two parties were able to agree on two contract articles and planned to meet again Tuesday in the hopes of making further progress.  Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — With the help of a federal mediator, representatives of Bath Iron Works and its largest union, Local S6, took the first steps toward resolving a strike that has entered its seventh week.

BIW and Local S6 of the Machinists Union reached an agreement on two contract articles Monday after meeting with the federal mediator into the night, but hadn’t yet discussed the primary issues that sparked the strike in the first place.

According to a written statement from Local S6, the union gained “the ability to jointly develop merit raise criteria.”

“This helps the union to assist mechanics that are not first-class that display the skill to progress forward without having to wait for 1,000 hours,” union officials wrote Tuesday.

In the company’s proposed 3-year contract, the ability to determine merit raises was solely a company right.

The two negotiating committees also agreed to not change any company holidays.

Negotiations between the two groups continued Tuesday.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service called in to assist BIW and Local S6 rekindle negotiations wrote in a press release Tuesday, “Though FMCS cannot comment on the substance or status of their specific negotiations, FMCS mediators are working with these parties to resolve the issues that divide them.”

Machinists Union Local S6, which represents 4,300 of the shipyard’s 6,800 workers, went on strike June 22 after rejecting the contract proposal from BIW. The main sticking points continue to be the company’s proposed changes to how it can hire subcontractors and proposed changes to seniority privileges, such as shift times and assignments.

In the proposed contract, the company requested the freedom to hire subcontractors without communicating with the union, as well as to move workers where they’re needed to “expedite our ability to employ whatever resources are available as quickly as possible to meet our customer’s needs in a way that is fair to our employees,” according to a company statement.

The union pushed back, unwilling to make concessions and fearful that they could be replaced by cheaper, out-of-state subcontractors.

Peter Bennett, a labor lawyer at the Portland-based Bennett Law Firm, said Monday it’s still possible for one side to win everything it wants, but both parties have a long road of negotiations ahead of them.

“Somebody or both sides are trying to find a way out of this,” said Bennett. “To some extent, everybody loses at this point, but everybody has to save face, too.”

David Hench, BIW spokesman, declined to comment Monday.


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