BATH, Maine (AP) — The U.S. Navy's top officer liked what he saw Monday during a tour of shipbuilder Bath Iron Works, praising the patriotism he saw in the workforce and describing the shipyard founded in 1884 as a “national treasure.”
Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, toured destroyers that were under construction and spoke to workers and leaders on Monday.
"They're so patriotic and so committed to delivering warships on time,” he said, giving a nod to shipyard's efforts to get caught up on production as the U.S. Navy faces growing competition from China and Russia.
The General Dynamics subsidiary was more than six months behind schedule before a two-month strike by production workers last summer. The delays were serious enough to knock the shipyard out of contention for a lucrative contract to build a new class of frigates, officials said.
Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, who joined Gilday on the tour, said shipyard management and production workers are now on the same page.
Collins said she witnessed “an unprecedented cooperation” between management and shipbuilders who “are working hand-in-glove.”
King said he sensed “a new spirit of cooperation” during his last couple of visits. “They’re all focused on one goal, which is meeting schedule and meeting budget,” he said.
The strike by production workers represented by Machinists Union Local S6 happened in the middle of the pandemic. The shipyard said it wanted more flexibility to get caught up on a backlog of work while workers didn't want to give up ground to subcontractors.
The shipyard builds destroyers, the workhorse of the Navy fleet. The ships have the ability to provide air defense while simultaneously waging war against submarines and surface warships.
The shipyard has hired about 2,000 workers since 2019 as part of its efforts to speed up production and meet the Navy's timetable for delivering ships. The workforce now tops 7,000.