Union Workers Strike Norfolk Shipyard
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ More than 1,800 employees of Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock Corp. struck Thursday to protest work schedule changes imposed after their old contract expired nine months ago.
″The strike was called for today because the employees were just tired of working so many hours without a contract for so long,″ said Tilton L. Fields Jr., president of Local 684 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, which represents about 1,900 employees at the shipyard.
Fields estimated that more than 95 percent of the unionized workers stayed off the job. Company officials had no estimate on the number who reported to work.
Al Hartnett, the yard’s chief negotiator, said about 400 non-unionized superivisors were operating the yard, which employs about 2,550 people.
The company and union last held a bargaining session about two months ago, both sides said. No further contract talks have been scheduled.
The contract expired Nov. 12 after union members rejected an offer from the yard. In December, the company announced it would implement contract proposals that included a provision whereby some employees work weekends as part of their regular work week, with two weekdays off.
Employees formerly were scheduled to work Monday through Friday and received overtime pay for working weekends.
Hartnett said the change was necessary to keep the yard competitive in the troubled ship construction and repair business.
″This is an industry that has a great many problems,″ he said. ″We have to be prepared to operate seven days a week to satisfy the customer.″
About 30 pickets stood outside the yard’s entrance Thursday, some shouting at cars that drove through the gate.
″They don’t want me to spend no time with my family,″ said Bob Knight, a nine-year employee. ″They go home on Saturdays and Sundays.″
The yard repairs Navy ships, merchant vessels and cruise ships and does some construction, but no contracts have been jeopardized by the strike, Hartnett said.