BATH — Bath Iron Works on Wednesday accused the leadership of its largest union of misrepresenting the shipbuilder’s three-year contract proposal to ensure a strike but said it’s ready to resume negotiations.

More than 4,000 members of Machinists Union Local S6 went on strike Monday after overwhelmingly rejecting the company’s proposal.

The proposal would give shipbuilders a 3% raise in each of the three years. But the shipbuilders’ union objected to the hiring of subcontractors and more than a dozen changes it considered to be concessions.

The company statement said the union’s negotiating committee “made no secret that they intended to strike first, talk later.”

“They misrepresented the company’s proposal to their members and led them into a strike that will inflict unnecessary financial hardship on thousands of Maine families,” spokesman David Hench said in the statement.

There was no immediate response from the union, but union officials have said the company must take the first step to restart negotiations.

The last strike, in 2000, lasted 55 days.

Company officials said the shipyard is already six months behind on work, partly because of the pandemic. A prolonged strike would further delay delivery of destroyers to the Navy.

The company continued to insist that subcontractors are sometimes needed despite the hiring of thousands of additional workers in recent years.

“Even as we hire thousands of new shipbuilders, we must be able to bring in temporary outside help and we must be able to deploy our shipbuilders where their skills are needed most. That is not an attack on seniority. It is ensuring that BIW can meet its obligations to the Navy and remain competitive for generations to come,” Hench said.

Bath Iron Works is one of the Navy’s five largest shipbuilders and a major employer in Maine, with 6,800 workers.


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