By COLIN STAUB
Unions and management at Vigor Marine remain far apart on economics in bargaining for a contract representing several hundred trade workers at Portland and Seattle shipyards.
The AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department and Vigor have been in negotiations for a new contract since the previous one expired at the end of November. The Metal Trades Department includes members of the Boilermakers, IBEW, Painters, Laborers, Sheet Metal, Pipefitters, Machinists, Teamsters and Operating Engineers.
Seeing that their bargaining team and Vigor Marine were far apart on wage increases, the unions held a strike pre-authorization vote in December. The strike authorization passed by a 95% margin.
After additional bargaining in late December, union representatives report the company’s offer is still not acceptable.
Scott Oldham, business representative for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 5, said Vigor has moved on economics, but only slightly.
“Absolutely not enough movement to bring it to the members for a vote,” said Oldham, who also serves as president of the Portland-area Metal Trades Council. “We don’t feel they would accept it, and we don’t believe it’s right for them to accept it, so we’re going to continue bargaining.”
As of early December, Vigor was offering wage increases of $0.35, $0.60, and $0.75 in a three-year contract, the Labor Press reported.
Bob Petroff, representative for the International Association of Machinists (IAM) District Lodge W24, said Vigor increased its offer by 20 cents since then. The union team says that’s not going to cut it, especially at a time when workers are feeling the impacts of inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Jan. 12 reported inflation hit 7% throughout 2021, its highest level since 1982.
“They absolutely feel the gas prices, they feel the food prices, they feel all those things,” Oldham said.
In a statement to the Labor Press, a Vigor spokesperson said the company is “committed to continuing our good faith negotiations with our labor partners toward a mutually agreeable contract. We look forward to making progress toward an agreement in our upcoming scheduled meetings.”
The two sides have another bargaining session set for Jan. 31. In the meantime, Metal Trades Department representatives are taking steps to build solidarity among workers. During a Jan. 10 visit to the Portland shipyard, Oldham, Petroff and Brian Richart of Boilermakers Local 104 distributed stickers to workers arriving for shifts. They asked employees to put the stickers on their hard hats to show support. Emblazoned with a Vigor logo, the stickers’ message reads: “Where’s the love?”