Metal Trades Council at Electric Boat overwhelmingly approves new contract

The Metal Trades Council overwhelmingly approved a new, four-year contract that includes raises and pension increases for eligible employees, despite objections by some of its members who said they should have gotten a better deal.

The MTC represents 2,673 shipyard workers at Electric Boat, including boilermakers, office and professional employees, pipefitters, machinists, teamsters, laborers, electricians and painters. The vote took place Tuesday with 2,122 members participating, and more than 85 percent voting to approve the contract: 1,844 in favor and 357 votes against, with nine deemed invalid.

After Tuesday's vote, President Ken DelaCruz said the union's negotiating committee "worked hard over the last six weeks to get this agreement."

"Negotiations are never easy. The vote reflects that," DelaCruz said by phone Tuesday night. While he said he had "hoped for more just like everyone else," the contract, which includes 3 percent raises "across the board," additional wage increases for specific jobs and a $500 signing bonus for all members, is still a good deal.

In 2021 the union will switch over to the same health care plan that all other EB employees are on, and DelaCruz said the contract includes seed money from the company to offset premium increases. In addition, he told The Day in an interview last week that the contract also includes monthly pension increases for eligible union members.

An email sent out to employees Tuesday night by company spokesman Liz Power outlined some of the other details of the contract, including competitive wages over the next four years through a combination of a signing bonus, four general wage increases and additional increases for skills-based premium pay. The contract also includes "enhancements" in health care, paid time off and retirement benefits, she said.

"We are pleased that the MTC employees ratified this contract offer which is one of the most competitive in our region and for all shipbuilders," Elicia Spearman, EB's vice president and chief human resources officer, said in the statement sent to employees. "Our employees are the best in the industry. They work hard and they deserve to be well compensated. We believe that the increases in compensation and the enhancements to the benefits package make this an outstanding contract for our employees and their families that significantly increases their quality of life."

After negotiating for six weeks, the company and the union reached a tentative agreement on the new contract on Sept. 27, the same day the union's current contract expired. The terms of the new contract are effective immediately.

A group of about 100 union members picketed Saturday outside the shipyard hours before a christening ceremony was held there, saying they thought with all the submarine construction work at EB that the union should have gotten a better contract.

They specifically cited wage increases being lower than in past contracts and health care premiums going up. Some of those picketing, who've been at the company for several decades, said they were standing up for the next generation of shipyard workers.

EB and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia build two Virginia-class attack submarines annually under a teaming agreement — a procurement rate that is expected to last for the next 20 years. Over that time, a new version of the Virginia submarines, which will carry more weapons, will be built and many of the future Virginia boats will feature a new, advanced design.

During that time, EB also will build 12 new ballistic-missile submarines, known as the Columbia class, which involve more than twice as much work as a Virginia submarine. The company's facilities in Groton and Quonset Point, R.I., are undergoing major upgrades and expansions to accomplish all this work.

j.bergman@theday.com

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