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Shipbuilders Union Rejects Offer

September 4, 2000

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) _ After a secret-ballot vote, some members of the largest union at Bath Iron Works walked out of their meeting place holding their fists aloft, chanting, ``Strike! Strike!″

With that, leaders of the International Association of Machinists’ union representing 4,800 workers rejected the Navy shipbuilder’s latest contract offer, sending a strike against the Navy shipbuilder into its second week.

Union representatives would not give a tally. But workers said the contract Sunday was voted down 1,805 to 1,611 _ a much narrower vote than the 88 percent margin by which the initial offer was rejected a week earlier.

Tony Provost, a negotiator for the union, said talks will continue ``when the company calls us and they want to get serious.″ He said pensions, health benefits and rules allowing workers to do different jobs are the top issues still to be settled.

Wage increases offered by the company include 4 percent as of Aug. 28, 3.5 percent in August 2001 and 4 percent a year after that, in addition to a $750 signing bonus. Workers are seeking twice the company’s offer.

BIW spokeswoman Susan Pierter said the company, one of Maine’s largest employers with about 7,600 workers, was aware of Sunday’s rejection, but had no further comment.

Emotions were high as the voting got under way in Augusta, about 35 miles from the Bath shipyard where the General Dynamics company turns out sophisticated Navy destroyers.

``As far as I’m concerned, we have to show corporate greed has got to go,″ said Dick Doyle, a materials clerk and shop steward, who held a strike sign draped with a U.S. flag as union members filed out.

Some union members said they were voting for the proposed contract because it addressed key issues from a week ago. The new offer bolstered job-security language in rules allowing workers to do more than their usual jobs.


On the Net:

Bath Iron Works: http://www.biw.com

Machinists union: http://www.iamaw.org

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