Leaders of two of the largest unions at Bath Iron Works are calling on the shipyard’s parent company, General Dynamics, to immediately close the yard and send its 8,000 workers home with full pay to comply with social distancing recommendations to contain the spread of coronavirus.

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers locals S6 and S7 criticized the company Monday in a dispute over policies that they said don’t compensate workers for staying home during the coronavirus outbreak or adequately address the threat of spreading the illness.

“As the number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 rise every day in Maine, we are demanding that General Dynamics protect the public health of all Mainers and immediately close the yard at Bath Iron Works for two weeks and send its workers home with full pay,” said Chris Wiers, president of Local S6, and Jessica Chubbuck-Goodwin, president of Local S7, in a joint statement. “With 8,000 workers living in all 16 counties in the state, it is critical that we contain a potential outbreak at the yard and allow these employees to follow public health guidelines to isolate themselves at home and away from the public.”

But BIW noted in a statement posted on its website that worker contracts include paid vacation and sick time, and that it was granting employees the option of unpaid leave from March 16 through March 27. It also set up a hotline and is providing other information to its workforce on its website.

Company spokesman David Hench said BIW would have no further comment Monday beyond its statement.

“As a BIW employee, you have a comprehensive benefits package that includes paid vacation and sick time to take care of yourself and your family during this difficult time,” the statement reads. “Recent circumstances, however, point to the fact that additional assistance may be necessary. To that end, BIW is granting all employees the option of unpaid leave during the two week period of (March 16) to (March 27).”

BIW added: “With the declaration of emergency by Gov. Janet Mills yesterday, we recognize that many aspects of the rapidly evolving situation may prove difficult for you and your family.”

It then listed ways that hourly and salaried employees could access benefits.

But the union was critical of the plan.

In a release to the news media, it said: “The ‘account for your own time’ approach, followed by the now ‘unpaid leave for the next two weeks without penalty’ approach does not address the concerns of a spreading virus.”

On its Facebook page, the union said that it was “deeply disappointed in how this critical situation is being handled.”

It shared an update it said it received from BIW Monday afternoon that read, in part: “Employees with children that may need to take time off to deal with school or daycare closings will be expected to use their contractual time to cover their absence.”

In the larger scope, the union noted the broad challenges facing a company that the state ranks as the fourth-largest private employer, with up to 6,000 workers who live all across Maine.

“Large amounts of workers commute to BIW by van or bus each day,” the union noted. “The large gatherings coming to and from, along with working throughout the shipyard, creates major effects that are now being discouraged throughout the country. Social distancing isn’t much of an option as we are now seeing this virus already starting to spread in the state of Maine.”

The local appealed for it to be involved with the decision-making process, although it noted on its Facebook page that workers and management had agreed on terms to allow a “cleaning task force” to perform a deep cleaning in the shipyard.

“Billion-dollar companies like General Dynamics should be able to take care of their employees,” the union said. “Bath Iron Works could set the standard of employee worth during a time of crisis and create the opportunity to truly be a leader.”

Comments are not available on this story.