Local S6, Bath Iron Works’ largest union, released a letter to union members Monday that outlines the union’s conversation with the shipyard in the hopes of deterring the company’s plan to hire subcontractors.  (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BATH — In an effort to halt Bath Iron Works’ plan to hire subcontractors, the shipyard’s largest union shared a letter with members Monday arguing the shipyard’s scheduling delays stem from management rather than the workers.

The letter, signed by Local S6 leaders, said officials “continue to meet with the company in an effort to find a way through the company’s proposed decision to subcontract bargaining unit’s work.”

In a statement last month, union leaders said the shipyard needs to hire subcontractors because it has fallen behind schedule but didn’t reach out to the union to formulate a recovery plan. The union said hiring subcontractors violates the contract between the union and the company.

David Hench, a spokesman for BIW, said hiring subcontractors “will allow BIW to perform the work that we have and to compete for and win new work, which will ensure the long-term success of our business.”

“For two decades, the contract between BIW and Local S6 has laid out the process for the company to temporarily subcontract work in times of staffing shortfalls like the one we are currently experiencing and we are actively engaged in that process now,” Hench said.

Colter Leeman, a BIW tinsmith of four years, said he believes the shipyard waited too long to hire new employees, and ultimately found itself desperate for workers. However, he said, BIW employees are partially at fault.

“About 60 percent of the workers build the ships and the other 40 percent aren’t doing enough, so hiring subcontractors is what it came to,” said Leeman.

Work that will be outsourced includes blasting and painting, snow shoveling and electrical work. Blasting and painting work is housed in a BIW facility in Brunswick.

Local S6 union officials could not be reached for comment.

“The company seems to be checking off the boxes in the Joint Agreement Process with the ultimate goal of bringing subcontractors to resolve scheduling slips,” union officials wrote in the letter. “We believe these slips are a direct result of poor management decisions, yet our hardworking membership is expected to pay the price.”

Union officials said BIW will not give workers floating holidays next year, entry-level wages will be lowered by 85% for all new applicants, and priority parking will be reserved for supervision personnel, meaning everyone else will be bussed in from satellite parking lots.

Local S6, part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, represents 3,600 of the BIW’s 6,000 workers, making it the shipyard’s largest union.

The company is in the midst of a hiring push to simultaneously to replace skilled workers who are retiring, and help fulfill a Navy contract to build 11 Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers in the next decade.

Boosting the shipyard’s workforce also makes it capable of building ships faster, which increases its chances of securing a contract to build 20 Frigates for the U.S. Navy. 

BIW took on just over 1,000 new workers in 2019 and plans to match that number in 2020, then add another 600 to 800 workers in 2021, according to Jon Mason, director of human resources for BIW.


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