All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation are calling on the Defense Department to do more to protect Bath Iron Works employees from the coronavirus, with union leaders calling for a temporary shutdown of the Bath shipyard.

In a joint statement Thursday, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden said the safety of shipyard workers is “paramount” during the coronavirus outbreak. They also vowed to provide the U.S. Department of Defense with any authority or funding needed to mitigate the virus’s spread while keeping the defense industrial base and national security strong.

“We are deeply concerned about the stability of the defense industrial base as the whole nation combats the current novel coronavirus outbreak,” the statement reads. “We are equally worried about the health and safety risks to the industrial base’s primary asset – its skilled workforce – as defense companies struggle to support our nation’s military while also managing the unique challenge we face today.”

Also on Thursday, Maine House Speaker Sarah Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson, both Democrats, issued a joint statement urging the Defense Department to push back its scheduled deadlines for delivery of Bath-made warships, citing the virus pandemic.

“At this time, BIW management has been directed by the federal government to maintain normal work operations to meet deadlines, which assume a healthy employee population, and a low risk of community transmission of disease,” their statement reads. “This is no longer a safe or realistic expectation for BIW or any large employer. It will likely result in loss of life and will definitely result in lost productivity.”

Pingree and Golden, both Democrats, issued a similar statement Thursday calling for extended deadlines.


BIW spokesman David Hench issued a statement Thursday saying the company is “not commenting right now” on any potential changes to its operations.

“We are proud of our shipyard workers who have stepped up during this challenging time to carry out their obligation to our nation’s defense,” Hench said. “They have demonstrated dedication and flexibility in adapting to challenges, and have been supported by a community that recognizes the importance of their work under these difficult circumstances.”

On Monday, leaders of two of the largest unions at BIW called 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.

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