Members of a union representing 760 designers and technicians at Bath Iron Works are preparing to strike if a new contract is not ratified by the end of the week.

Members of the Bath Marine Draftsmen’s Association Local 3999 authorized a strike after rejecting a final contract offer from the company by a “nearly unanimous” vote on Sunday.

However, union members agreed to return to work under a contract extension until the end of the week so the union and management could resume negotiations.

“We are proud to represent such a determined and committed membership and will continue to utilize every available option as we work to bring you an acceptable proposal by this coming Saturday,” the union’s negotiation committee said in a statement on Facebook.

Major obstacles appear to be flex time and wages, according to a Facebook post from a union member. The proposed contract would run until 2022.

Union officials did not return a request for comment Monday. BMDA is an affiliate of United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. The workers represented by BMDA represent approximately 13 percent of BIW’s total workforce. The union represents workers who develop and revise ship designs and technical drawings, as well as laboratory technicians and people who test materials for imperfections.

Bath Iron Works is owned by General Dynamics.

“We are continuing to negotiate in good faith,” company spokeswoman Lisa Read said in an email, declining to comment further.

The proposed contract would have given union workers two pay increases totaling 5.6 percent over four and a half years. The union wage scale presently ranges from $18.05 for entry-level designers and technical clerks to $34.96 for a level three non-destructive testing technician.

The final offer from BIW also included a 401(k) match increase, an increase in paid time off and lump-sum payments worth $6,000. A sticking point appears to be changes in employees’ flex time and shift schedules.

The contract standoff comes almost two years after members of Machinists Union Local S6 narrowly voted for a four-year contract that gave concessions on work rules, pay, pensions and health benefits. BIW said concessions were needed to make the company more competitive in its bid to build cutters for the Coast Guard. The company lost that bid to Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama, Florida, in September 2016 and announced it might have to cut up to 1,000 jobs.

A strike by draftsmen would not likely affect construction at the shipyard immediately, said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst and Chief Operating Officer at the Lexington Institute, a Washington, D.C.-area think tank. However, a prolonged strike could slow down shipbuilding.

“There are many steps to the construction of the modern warship,” Thompson said. “Interruption at any stage can ripple through the construction process.” Most major designs are completed well in advance of the start of construction, he added.

Under the contract extension, the union agreed not to strike and the company agreed not to engage in a lockout until the agreement expires Sunday. In a Facebook post, the union negotiation committee said it was scheduled to meet with the company on Tuesday.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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