Local S6 union members gathered in front of the union hall on Washington Street in Bath prior to the beginning of the strike last month to protest the shipyard’s proposed contract changes. Union officials announced Tuesday communication between the two parties may be on the horizon.  Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — Officials of Bath Iron Works’ largest union, now in their fifth week on strike over contract disputes, announced there soon may be hope of reigniting negotiations.

After meeting with a federal mediator for a second time, officials of Local S6, which represents 4,300 of the company’s 6,700 employees, announced that BIW is willing to consider union proposals.

In turn, the union is looking at “additional solutions to BIW proposals that do not violate seniority or subcontract our work,” which remain the two major points of contention between the company and union.

The union also suggested an in-person meeting with BIW officials if the company “brings someone with production knowledge and a decision-maker.”

Union officials couldn’t be reached for further comment Tuesday.

The shipyard hadn’t agreed to an in-person meeting as of Tuesday afternoon, but union officials said they “should be hearing something in the next few days as to the next step of the process. We are hopeful and anticipate some form of a meeting with BIW by next week.”

BIW spokesman David Hench said Tuesday the company “remains actively engaged in the federal mediation process,” but declined to comment on when shipyard officials might meet with the mediator again or whether the company plans to meet with union leaders.

The strike began July 22 after Local S6 voted to rejected a three-year contract offer from the company over proposed changes to how the company hires subcontractors and seniority benefits for union members.

Talks between the union and shipyard have been stagnant since the union rejected the contract, prompting the union to call on the Navy and Maine lawmakers to pressure BIW back to the negotiating table.

Chris Wiers, president of Local S6, wrote a letter Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite last Friday in which he said BIW leadership said their call for subcontractors stemmed from pressure from the Navy, but the union wants confirmation.

“Consistently throughout these negotiations, the company has made clear, both implicitly and explicitly, that their desire to increase their ability to outsource work is based heavily on the Navy’s strong endorsement of additional subcontracting at BIW,” Wiers wrote. “We strongly believe the changes in subcontracting language which the company is pushing for will be detrimental to the skilled workforce at BIW and the Navy’s shipbuilding mission.”

State lawmakers have also answered the union’s calls, encouraging negotiations between the company and union so the strike can be resolved and union members can return to work.

Sen. Susan Collins’ office released a statement last 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.”

Comments are not available on this story.