Local S6 union members, will return to work Monday, Aug. 24, if a majority of union members vote to approve the new proposed contract with the shipyard.  Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — Local S6, Bath Iron Work’s largest union, called off picketers in anticipation of the vote that could end the ongoing strike, which has dragged on for nine weeks.

Tim Suitter, Local S6 spokesman, said union leaders told members to stop picketing as “an act of good faith” before ahead of this weekend’s vote on the new contract proposal.

“From the union’s standpoint, we want to give people the opportunity to come to the (union) hall and get their questions answered rather than picketing,” said Suitter. “We want to make sure everyone has the information they need to vote.”

Members will vote on the new contract online and via telephone from Friday through noon on Sunday.

A majority of union members need to vote in favor of the new contract proposal for it to be adopted. If the contract is approved, union members will return to work on Monday, Aug. 24. Their health insurance and other benefits would resume the same day.

With picketing halted, union members can come to the union hall to ask questions about the new contract for a few hours in order to earn their weekly $150 stipend they would have earned by picketing.

Union members aren’t the only ones standing down before the new contract goes to a vote.

BIW Spokesman David Hench confirmed Tuesday temporary security guards hired during the strike will be leaving the facility and the fencing around the shipyard will be taken down, but he did not know when.

The strike began in June when an overwhelming majority of union members voted to reject BIW’s initial proposed contract.

The union opposed the company’s proposal over disagreements over how the company can hire subcontractors. The company’s proposal would also gave BIW the ability to move union workers to different jobs or shifts regardless of seniority.

After a six-week stalemate, the two parties restarted contract negotiations with the help of a federal mediator. After a week of meetings that ran late into the night, the union and company reached a tentative agreement.

The overhauled contract proposal Local S6 will vote on this weekend ensures shift changes will remain based on seniority and states that if the company wants to hire subcontractors, it will still need to justify its reasons with union leadership.

Several union members told The Times Record last week they’re confident the new contract will pass.

“From what the company offered to what they settled on … they came a long way,” John Payne, a welder at BIW for 30 years, said last week. “This new contract received 100% endorsement from the Local S6 negotiating committee, so people have no reason to vote it down.”

The union will hold a solidarity rally on Saturday, Aug. 22 at 5 p.m., according to a social media post from the union. The International Union President Robert Martinez will address the union, along with “several state and federal legislators.”

Suitter said he didn’t know which lawmakers will be at Saturday’s rally.

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