BATH — The striking union at Bath Iron Works has requested help from a federal mediator as both the company and the union say they’re open to resuming negotiations, but neither has made the first move.

The union requested the mediator’s help on Tuesday, but the company would have to agree to mediation, according to Jay Wadleigh, a district business representative for the union.

Machinists Union Local S6, which represents 4,300 of the shipyard’s 6,700 employees, rejected the three-year contract proposal over disagreements on the company’s plans to continue hiring subcontractors and make changes to seniority privileges.

Members of local S6 of the Machinists Union from a picket line near at the South Gate entrance to BIW on Monday. The union has requested the help of a federal mediator. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Both parties released statements Wednesday expressing their willingness to resume negotiations, but company and union leaders still hadn’t spoken as of Thursday afternoon, according to Tim Suitter, Local S6 spokesman.

Suitter said the union is frustrated at the company’s “uninterest in talking,” but said union members are in good spirits and prepared to strike for as long as necessary.

“It’ll be a long time before people get tired and accept anything less than what we deserve,” Suitter said. “We’re ready, willing and eager to get back to the negotiating table.”

The proposed a three-year contract included an annual 3 percent pay increase, maintained current premiums on benefits including 401k and life insurance, but increased health plan co-pays.

In a statement released Wednesday, David Hench, BIW Spokesman, wrote the shipyard is ready to speak with the union, but it doesn’t have a secondary offer and cannot make an offer “that sets this yard up for failure.”

“Even before negotiations started, this committee made no secret of the fact that they intended to strike first, talk later,” wrote Hench. “Although they were offered a fair contract that respects seniority, compensates employees … and sets the yard up for future success, they misrepresented the company’s proposal to their members and led them into a strike that will inflict unnecessary financial hardship on thousands of Maine families.”

In response, Local S6 President Chris Wiers noted a petition over 3,000 Local S6 members signed in December criticizing the company’s use of subcontractors. He said union representatives have provided alternatives to using subcontractors, but BIW “refused to implement those ideas, even on a trial basis.”

“Please ask yourselves how we built ships on time and often under budget with union contracts that were far less prohibitive for more than 100 years,” wrote Wiers. “Simple, managers came off the deck plates with years of shipbuilding knowledge and trusted their employees’ input.”

After the union launched its first strike in 20 years on Monday, lawmakers chimed in on the matter.

In a written statement Monday, Gov. Janet Mills urged both BIW and Local S6 to “return to the negotiating table, resolve their differences, and reach an agreement, as difficult as that is.”

“The hardworking men and women at BIW are only asking to be paid fairly for the work that they do,” Senate President Troy Jackson wrote Monday. “Right now, BIW is spending more money, taxpayer dollars I might add, to hire out-of-state workers to avoid paying their employees a decent wage.”

Former Vice President and likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden urged the company to resume contract talks with the union and make members a “fair offer” that will allow them to take care of their families.

As of Thursday evening, both parties were waiting for the other to make the first move.

Hench did not return requests for comment Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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