BATH, Maine — The largest labor union at Bath Iron Works in a narrow vote has approved a new four-year contract.
The vote was 1,343 to 1,045, according to Jason Perry of Limerick, who is a member of Local S6 of the machinists union that argued against the labor contract.
“We will have to live with it,” Perry said, predicting that there will be layoffs even if the company gets a contract to build the new U.S. Coast Guard cutters.
The company issued a statement following the vote that was held at the Augusta Civic Center.
“General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is extremely pleased that this new contract was ratified by the men and women of IAMAW Local S6. This agreement will help make BIW more competitive as we seek to win new work so we can continue to provide good-paying jobs here in Maine. We look forward to working with the union to effectively implement the important changes in this agreement,” the company statement read.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King also issued a statement after the new contract was approved.
“The ratification of the labor contract required collaboration, hard work, and compromise by all parties. This represents a significant achievement and will put BIW on a viable track moving forward as they work as a team to fulfill critical Navy requirements,” according to the senators’ statement.
The contract includes no pay raises, although it offers $2,500 annual bonuses — the first one to be paid on Christmas Eve 2015. Weekly contributions to health insurance premiums would not increase, but employees would be responsible for an increase in co-payments and deductibles would increase. The company’s contribution to a pension fund administered by the union would increase by small increments each year of the contract.
Perry said there was no rush or urgency to approve the contract because the existing agreement did not expire until May 22, 2016.
Shipyard officials have said early resolution of the pact was necessary in order to allow the shipyard to bid next year for a new class of Coast Guard cutters, as well as for the next multiyear contract for U.S. Navy destroyers.
Management has argued consistently that labor costs place BIW at a disadvantage in competitive bidding for defense contracts needed to sustain or grow workforce levels.
The company is the state’s fourth largest private employer, with 5,700 workers, according to the Maine Department of Labor. Only Hannaford, Wal-Mart and MaineHealth employ more workers.