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Pickets Go Up As 10,000 Strike Sub Builder

July 1, 1988

GROTON, Conn. (AP) _ More than 10,000 workers went on strike Friday against Electric Boat, maker of the Navy’s nuclear submarines and the largest employer in the area, and no new contract talks were scheduled.

The members of unions belonging to the Metal Trades Council walked off their jobs at midnight after voting 4,921-3,140 to reject the company’s offer to pay them lump-sum bonuses in each of the next three years instead of higher wages.

Negotations between the MTC, which represents more than half of Electric Boat’s 18,000 workers, broke down about a half-hour before the old three-year contract expired at midnight Thursday.

State Labor Commissioner Betty L. Tianti said state mediators had been in touch with both sides, but neither side seemed interested in meeting.

About 300 workers, some chanting obscenties, picketed outside four gates Friday morning. About 80 state and local police stood by. The pickets dwindled to about 50 by mid-afternoon.

Police reported arrests of two men, one accused of setting off fireworks and the other accused of driving his car through police barricades in front of the plant.

Owners of bars and liquor stores near the plant on the Thames River followed police requests to close Thursday and Friday. Grocery stores also stopped selling beer.

The last MTC strike against Electric Boat lasted five months in 1975 and had an estimated $42 million ripple-effect on the economy of southeastern Connecticut.

Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics Corp., is one of two shipyards making nuclear submarines for the Navy and the only manufacturer of giant subs capable of carrying the Trident missile.

The shipyard has eight attack submarines and seven Trident submarines under construction, officials said.

EB general manager Fritz Tovar said a strike will not stop construction. The company arranged to reassign salaried employees, he said, adding there was also the possibility of hiring permanent replacements and subcontractors.

EB offered employees bonuses worth 5 percent of a worker’s wages during the first contract year and 4 percent during the second and third years of the pact. The union demanded wage increases of 5 percent, 4 percent and 4 percent.

Electric Boat’s ″last, best and final offer,″ presented Monday, called for bonuses totaling $4,250 over three years for a first-class mechanic making $12.02 an hour, said Thomas Sotir, vice president of human resources.

Electric Boat insisted it could afford no more than cash bonuses to remain competitive in its pursuit of Navy contracts.

The Navy on Thursday awarded Electric Boat this year’s third and final SSN- 688 attack submarine contract, worth $347.4 million. Contracts for two other attack subs were awarded recently to Electric Boat’s only rival, the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. of Virginia, which pays its workers 60 cents an hour less.

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