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Marine Log

March 8, 2007

Ingalls workers go on strike

Workers set up picket lines today at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems' Ingalls shipyard after the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) declared a strike.

The strike was sanctioned by both the IBEW and the Pascagoula Metal Trades Council.

The council issued a statement saying members had rejected a proposed contract settlement with Northrop Grumman by an overwhelming margin. Ingalls workers have been working under a contract extension since their previous agreement expired on March 4th.

At the same time, noted the statement, workers at the NGSS yard in New Orleans voted to accept the proposed agreement by a significant margin. The New Orleans Metal Trades Council negotiates for 5,000 workers and 11 unions at the New Orleans facility.

"Our members at Ingalls are frustrated and angry. Ever since the Gulf Coast storms two years ago their quality of life has taken a nosedive," said National Metal Trades Department President Ron Ault. "Housing is expensive and hard to find. Paying for everyday commodities and services, like gasoline and insurance, even groceries takes a much bigger bite out of their take home pay than two years ago."

"What we're seeing here is something like post traumatic stress in combat troops," continued Ault. "They are fed up with what they see as abandonment and neglect of this region. Our members are the world's best shipbuilders, living in one of the nation's most devastated areas. Something has got to give."

Pascagoula Metal Trades Council President Mike Crawley said: "On Wednesday night, March 7, the members of the Pascagoula Metal Trades Council voted again and overwhelmingly rejected this second offer. In anticipation of the vote, we worked with the Metal Trades Department to set up our picket lines at 9 a.m., Thursday, March 8.

"Our members have clearly spoken twice now. If they are willing to give up their wages, benefits and the security of a stable job, then we are going to stand behind them.

"With everything that has gone on in this region over the past two years, the company is going to have to be more competitive with other industries here to retain their skilled workforce. The workers in the Shipyard are the best shipbuilders in the world; it is time we got back to treating them that way."

Negotiations between NGSS and the Ingalls Council have been running on a parallel track with talks between the company and four other unions that hold separate agreements. The Council represents nearly 7,000 production workers at the Ingalls yard, including Boilermakers, Carpenters, Plumbers, Painters, Asbestos Workers, Laborers, Machinists, Sheet Metal Workers, Teamsters, Guards and Operating Engineers. The separate agreements include pacts between NGSS and units of Machinists, a second unit of Guards, Electrical Workers and Office Employees. All unions rejected the proposed agreements. All are on strike in unity. All have agreed that the Metal Trades will serve as the lead contact and spokesman.

Negotiators for the Metal Trades Council returned to the bargaining table earlier this week with assistance from a federal mediator. The company restructured what it had previously described as its "last, best and final offer" by reducing the duration to three years instead of four and adjusting some proposals affecting health care and retirement. Those adjustments reportedly added about $14 million to the value of the agreement.