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Shipyard, Largest Union Reach Deal

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BATH, MAINE (AP) — Negotiators for Bath Iron Works and its largest union announced a tentative agreement on new contract Thursday morning after all-night talks.

A vote to end the strike by 4,800 shipbuilders will be held Sunday, negotiators said. Workers were expected to maintain picket lines until midnight Thursday.

Both sides said the proposed agreement addresses the major concerns of union members who voted to strike Sunday, according to a statement released early Thursday.

Members of Local S6 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers were upset over the company's pay structure and proposed changes in work rules.

The agreement came after members of the draftsmen's union, the shipyard's second-largest with 800 workers, voted Wednesday to join striking shipbuilders in a sympathy strike.

The agreement was described as providing the company with flexibility while providing safeguards to ensure that a so-called cross-training provision would not be used when layoffs are in effect.

Managers have said workers need more skills to become more efficient, but the union says it's just a ploy to lay off workers. Wages also were a concern for shipbuilders who accepted a contract three years ago that included a raise of 25 cents an hour.

The strike shut down production at one of only two U.S. shipyards that build Aegis-class destroyers. The last strike at BIW was a 99-day walkout in 1985. The shipyard is one of Maine's biggest private employers, with 7,600 workers.

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