Local S6 union members, who have been on strike for six weeks, rallied in front on the union hall last Saturday to reignite their calls for a fair contract. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — Leaders of Bath Iron Works’ largest union announced Friday that contract negotiations with shipyard officials could restart on Monday. The meeting would be the first significant step toward resolution of a strike that has dragged on for weeks.

Local S6 leaders said online Monday the federal mediator called in to help ease tensions and rekindle communication between the union and the company, didn’t provide details on the planned meeting, but the union “will provide an update at the conclusion of Monday’s meeting.”

David Hench, BIW spokesman, confirmed Friday the company will meet with the federal mediator and union officials Monday, but declined to comment further.

Machinist Union Local S6, which represents 4,300 of the shipyard’s 6,800 workers, went on strike June 22 after rejecting the 3-year contract proposal over disagreements about the company’s plans to continue hiring subcontractors and proposed changes to worker seniority privileges.

In the proposed contract, the company requested the freedom to hire subcontractors without communicating with the union, as well as to move workers where they’re needed to “expedite our ability to employ whatever resources are available as quickly as possible to meet our customer’s needs in a way that is fair to our employees,” according to a company statement.

The shipyard has promised it will not replace Local S6 workers with out-of-state subcontractors as the union fears, but the union doesn’t believe the company’s promises and refuses to make the concession.

“The dedicated men and women of Local S6 have fought and will continue to fight for the thousands of Local S6 members to ensure job security and a healthy economic future,” Local S6 President Chris Wiers said during a July 25 rally. “We are the backbone of BIW and we will not be broken.”

Last month the union invited the shipyard to meet together with the federal mediator. The two parties have been meeting separately with the mediator over the past several weeks, but those meetings haven’t yielded any resolution.

Hench has repeatedly said the company is “fully engaged” in the federal mediation process and “when that process calls for the parties to return to the bargaining table and resume negotiations, we are prepared to do so.”

The union has expressed frustration with BIW’s “inaction” and wrote in an online statement released last week, “This is typical BIW [public relations] that doesn’t accurately depict the intent of the process or the actual progress made.”

“The mediator is supposed to get us back to the table which we are clearly prepared to do,” union officials wrote. “We are prepared with additional options, plans, and proposals for increased job security and schedule recuperation to assist BIW.”

BIW has stressed the importance of subcontractors in helping the shipyard meet its production deadlines. BIW officials have said the shipyard was six months behind schedule  — and that was before the strike started.

Despite the strike, General Dynamics officials didn’t express much concern during a second quarter earnings conference call last week. Phebe Novakovic, company chairwoman and CEO, said the ongoing strike “had an immaterial impact” on the company’s earnings this quarter.

“Across our company we have many union partners and, in all respects, we have decades-long positive working relationships with them,” she said. “This union, unfortunately, seems to be the one exception.”

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