Shipbuilders picket outside an entrance to Bath Iron Works in this June 22, 2020, file photo. Thousands of workers went on strike against one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders after rejecting a three-year contract. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Letters between the presidents of Bath Iron Works and its largest union, which is in its fifth week of a strike over a new contract, show that the two remain at odds over the key issues of seniority and subcontractors.

BIW President Dirk Lesko reiterated that the shipyard needs to use subcontractors to catch up on shipbuilding work, which he has said is six months behind schedule. He also said BIW will respect “key elements of seniority” among union members, but the company still needs to be able to make work assignments to meet business needs that might not always align with seniority.

“BIW needs efficient and timely access to every resource possible to get back on track and regain our competitive position,” Lesko wrote in a July 21 letter responding to a July 10 letter the union sent to Phebe Novakovic, CEO of BIW parent General Dynamics.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6 posted Lesko’s letter on its Facebook page on Wednesday. In the letter, Lesko adds that BIW will not use the flexibility it wants in subcontracting to replace union jobs.

Both BIW and the union are working with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The union held its second meeting with a federal mediator on Tuesday and said it hopes to be able to talk directly to BIW next week.

Lesko concluded his letter saying the company is “confident that by focusing on the shared objectives … BIW and Local S6 can find a mutually beneficial solution.”