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Newport News Shipbuilding, United Steelworkers plan to inform workers of new labor deal

The tentative 5-year contract, if approved, would prelude a possible strike at Virginia's largest industrial employer.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Two months after union members rejected the last agreement by a two-to-one margin, there's been a breakthrough in the labor talks at Newport News Shipbuilding.

United Steelworkers Local 8888 and shipyard management reached a tentative 60-month collective bargaining agreement last Friday.

Steelworkers spokesman Dwight Kirk said Monday said reaching a potential new pact was a relief, especially after union members voted down the last deal.

"The news that a deal had been struck I think was welcomed by the members and they're just waiting to get more details about it," he said.

Kirk said this contract involves wage improvements, recognition of employees as essential workers for the labor they have performed during the pandemic, and domestic partner benefits.

Kirk said starting on Wednesday, the union will begin a membership education campaign to ensure that the rank and file are informed about the agreement's content.

He said a ratification vote will eventually take place at a date yet to be determined.

"No, no date has been set yet," he said. "Partly because, we want to take our time in making sure we get the summary of the contract in the hands of all or our members to make sure  they understand what's in the contract."

A spokesman for the shipyard's parent company, Huntington Ingalls Industries, issued a statement.

Corporate Director of Public Affairs Danny Hernandez said:

"Working diligently with the United Steelworker leadership negotiation team we reached a tentative agreement Friday, Jan. 28. In the coming week, we will post the tentative agreement terms, including wage, health care, and pension information to ensure all employees have a complete and accurate understanding of the agreement prior to the upcoming employee vote. Meanwhile, we are pleased that the union is continuing to honor all current contract terms and conditions and that we continue to meet our mission in building ships for the U.S. Navy."         

If this new collective bargaining agreement is ratified, it would mean that a work stoppage would be avoided.

The last time there was a strike at Newport News Shipbuilding was in 1999 -- it lasted for 17 weeks. 

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