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Labor negotiations underway between Newport News Shipbuilding, union ahead of Nov. 14 expiration

The current contract between Newport News Shipbuilding and United Steelworkers is set to expire on Nov. 14.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The clock is ticking for one of Hampton Roads' most important employers.

Newport News Shipbuilding has less than two weeks to negotiate a new labor contract with the Steelworkers Union.

It's significant to the employees and the local economy.

And it's vital to national security because the shipyard is the world's only maker of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and, one of only two yards in the country that build Virginia and Columbia Class submarines for the Navy.

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Talks between the United Steelworkers Local 8888 and Newport News Shipbuilding began on September 28. Now, it's getting down to crunch time.

While talks are said to be progressing productively, there's now just a little over a week until the current 52-month labor contract expires.

"During the pandemic, workers in the shipyard were designated as essential workers and they had to report to work," said USW 8888 Spokesman Dwight Kirk. "But, they didn't receive hazard pay. They also had to report to work and take risks with their own health but they weren't compensated for that."

The union represents about 12,000 of the more than 25,000 workers at the shipyard, which saw operating income for the three months that ended Sept. 30 increase by 11 percent over the previous year's level, to $88 million.

Now, union leaders said workers who construct Navy aircraft carriers and submarines should be more fairly paid.

"We feel that it's time that the company get right by the workers in the shipyard who generate this wealth, for them to receive their fair share," said Kirk.

To shine a spotlight on the situation, the union this week projected what it calls a "Bat-light" on buildings around the shipyard, promoting union messages.

The company, in a statement to 13 News Now said: "We are committed to working together to reach an agreement that supports the goals and objectives of both the company and the union."

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The statement continued: "As Huntington Ingalls Industries President and CEO Mike Petters said during the earnings call Thursday, we pride ourselves with having a constructive relationship with our labor partners."

The negotiations are not only about pay. The union is also seeking more time off for workers to deal with family issues, and, it wants Veterans Day to be a paid company holiday.

The current contract will expire in nine days, on Nov. 14.