For shipyard workers, contract … or strike



Portland shipyard workers head back to the job after an April 9 union rally. | PHOTO BY MIKE PRAULT

Union shipyard workers in Portland and Seattle will decide on April 28 whether to approve a new tentative agreement with employer Vigor Marine.

The agreement would cover 986 workers, including members of nine unions: Boilermakers, IBEW, Painters, Laborers, Sheet Metal, Pipefitters, Machinists, Teamsters and Operating Engineers. They bargain together under the jurisdiction of the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department. The former contract with Vigor Marine expired Dec. 1, 2021, and workers rejected a previous tentative agreement in March.

The new tentative agreement includes a $1.25 wage increase on May 2, $1.30 on Dec. 1, and a $1.40 raise in December 2023. What was previously a $2,000 signing bonus was increased to a $5 bonus for every hour worked between Dec. 1 and April 10. Painters Local 10 rep Scott Oldham, president of the Portland-area Metal Trades Council, said the bonus could be as much as $3,000 for some workers. And more workers would receive the bonus than in the previous tentative agreement. The agreement also strengthens limits on subcontracting, which will result in an increase in union workers’ hours, Oldham said.

The latest tentative agreement represents substantial movement by Vigor. Its initial offer was $0.35, $0.60 and $0.75 raises over a three-year contract, and a $1,250 signing bonus.

Workers have voted twice to authorize a strike, in December and March, and Oldham said if the new tentative agreement is rejected, that almost certainly signals a strike.

That could be costly for Vigor, because both shipyards are booming. Workers in Seattle are servicing six Navy ships, while the Portland shipyard is doing maintenance work on two cruise boats back-to-back, with the second slated to arrive April 24.

In the early phase of servicing a ship, shifts run 12 hours, seven days a week. They drop to 10 hours later, but continue seven days a week.

The Portland shipyard features the largest floating drydock in North America, 951 feet by 187 feet.

On April 9, close to 100 unionists rallied outside the Portland shipyard gates to show support for Vigor Marine workers.

Boilermakers Local 104 assistant business manager Brian Richart, Vigor workers Yuriy Izotov, Alex Gauna, and Heather Macleesh, and Painters District Council 5 rep Scott Oldham  | PHOTO BY DON MCINTOSH


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