NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The union representing more than 10,000 steelworkers at Newport News Shipbuilding rejected a proposed 5-year labor contract, meaning it's back to the drawing board for both sides.
By a margin of 1,312 to 684, members of United Steelworkers Local 8888 said "no" to the collective bargaining agreement tentatively OK'd by negotiators for both sides on Nov. 13.
The existing contract expired on Sunday (Nov. 14), and it took more than two months of negotiations to reach the agreement which the union, as a whole, rejected.
Union negotiators had said the proposed 5-year deal "would enhance wages, improve pension, curb health care costs and bolster promotional opportunities in lower job categories."
Specifics never were released, but in addition to seeking higher wages, we do know the union hoped that Veterans Day would become a company-paid holiday.
A union spokesman had said at the heart of negotiation was respect.
"Whatever comes of this contract, the workers will continue to press the company to recognize them and deal with them as essential workers and not just simply as people who turn profits for the company," said Dwight Kirk of USW Local 8888.
The union said more information about the next steps will come "shortly," but it didn't give a specific timetable.
Wednesday evening, a spokesperson with Huntington Ingalls (the parent company of Newport News Shipbuilding) issued this statement:
This morning, we were notified that United Steelworkers members at Newport News Shipbuilding division voted against a new labor contract. We pride ourselves with having a long, constructive relationship with our labor partners, and are disappointed that union members voted against a contract that would continue to provide fair and competitive wage and benefit packages to our shipbuilders.
Newport News Shipbuilding is the world's only maker of Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and, one of two manufacturers of Navy Virginia and Columbia Class submarines in the country.
With more than 25,000 employees, it is Virginia's largest industrial employer.