Unions okay contract at Northrop Grumman shipyard
WHEN HURRICANE KATRINA came through Pascagoula, Miss., in August 2005, it took either the home or vehicle of over half the workers at the Ingalls’ shipyard. When the storm hit, hundreds of Ingalls’ employees stayed behind to work in deep floodwaters to protect the yard’s equipment. Many of these workers are still living in trailers today. But when the company offered a salary increase that would be wiped out by the proposed increase in health insurance co-payments, over 6,000 workers walked off the job, shutting down Northrop Grumman Ship Systems’ Ingalls Operations — Mississippi’s largest private employer.
The strike began March 8 and ended four weeks later on April 4. Eighty percent of the 6,000 workers (about 4,800) belong to one of the 15 unions that represent workers at Ingalls. On average, only 200 of the 6,000 hourly workers in this right-to-work state chose to cross the picket line.
By a vote margin of 60 to 40 percent, union workers accepted a three-year contract and employees returned to work on April 5. About 1,900 of those shipyard workers belong to Boilermakers Local 693. Full production was expected to resume April 10.
Warren Fairley, director of the Boilermakers’ shipbuilding division, said, “I expected a close vote, and we got one, but I think members will be satisfied with the result. We didn’t get everything we had hoped for, but we got more improvements than we’ve seen in a while.” Union leaders had recommended ratification, he said, even though they were unable to achieve some of the gains that members sought.
Philip Teel, president of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, stated: “We are pleased that the contract was ratified, and we stand ready to get back to full production.”
Contract highlights include the following:
- A 15.2 percent wage increase (9.2 percent immediately, then three percent in each of the following two years of the contract);
- Shift premiums of 80 cents an hour;
- Attendance bonuses with the potential to earn an additional $1,040 annually;
- Cost-of-living allowances in the second and third year of the contract;
- Fixed health care premiums capped at $194 in the third year of the contract;
- Five percent added to the retirement multiplier (from 65 percent to 70 percent); and
- Increases in vacation and holidays.
Ingalls is a subsidiary of the Northrop Grumman Corporation and part of the corporation’s Ship Systems Sector. In operation continuously since 1938, Ingalls is a commercial and naval shipyard. Union members have built luxury cruise liners, cargo vessels, containerships, and tankers for commercial use, and assault ships, cruisers, destroyers, submarine tenders, ammunition ships, and nuclear submarines for the U.S. Navy. Local 693 has represented workers at the shipyard since it was chartered in 1939.