Shipyard Workers Strike
BATH, Maine (AP) _ Giant cranes that help build Navy destroyers stood idle Monday as 4,800 shipyard workers at Bath Iron Works went on strike for the first time in 15 years.
Members of the Machinists union overwhelmingly authorized the walkout over wages and job security Sunday, hours before their previous contract expired. No new talks were scheduled.
Separately, nearly 3,000 workers went on strike Sunday in Massachusetts at another defense contractor, Raytheon Co., maker of the Patriot missile.
At Bath, the strike shut down production at one of only two U.S. shipyards that build Aegis-class destroyers. The last strike at BIW was a 99-day walkout in 1985. The shipyard is one of Maine’s biggest private employers, with 7,600 workers.
Shipyard spokeswoman Sue Pierter said the company, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, felt that its contract offer was fair and that the workers’ rejection of it came as a surprise.
``I want what I’m worth, and General Dynamics can well afford it,″ said Paul Avery, a shipyard rigger. As managers arrived at work, dozens of shipbuilders waved signs and taunted them.
Members of two other unions, representing designers and clerical workers, joined pickets outside BIW, but others crossed the lines to work.
The shipyard proposed a three-year contract with wage increases of 4 percent this year, 3.5 percent next year and 4 percent in 2002. It also contained a $500 signing bonus. The company said the proposal would increase an average production worker’s wage-and-benefit package from $41,000 to $48,000 a year at the end of the contract period.
But workers said the $41,000 figure is misleading. The wage portion is only $32,000 a year on average for union workers, said Dale Hartford, a union negotiators.
Union negotiators pushed for raises of 8 percent the first year and 7 percent in each of the following years.
While wages are a big concern, several strikers said issues relating to cross-trading _ rules allowing workers to perform more than one job _ are more important. The company wants to remove job-security protections for workers who are displaced by others who take over their jobs.
``This is the issue: Working side-by-side with each other and then the next week one of them is on the street,″ said union negotiator Tony Provost.
At Raytheon, workers walked out at 10 of the company’s Massachusetts plants. Most work at the Andover plant, which makes most of the Patriot missiles. Hawk defense systems are also manufactured there.
The Raytheon employees’ union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said Raytheon’s proposal for a four-year contract does not offer enough protection of manufacturing jobs.
On the Net:
Bath Iron Works: http://www.biw.com
General Dynamics: http://www.generaldynamics.com
Machinists union: http://www.iamaw.org