A majority of the more than 1,000 blue-collar workers who have left their jobs at Electric Boat in the last six months have quit because they don't like the contract that ended a recent three-month strike, a union leader said.
''I don't know when it's going to stop," Joseph W. Messier, president of the Metal Trades Council, said Wednesday.Mr. Messier said that 1,010 union workers have left the shipyard since July 1, including 259 who left in December. While the figure includes those who retired or were fired, Mr. Messier said a majority of workers have quit
because of their dissatisfaction with the EB contract.
Many workers, Mr. Messier said, remained employed until November or
December in order to collect up to $3,250 in bonus payments that EB agreed to pay workers instead of granting general wage increases.
"A lot of people did what we said they were going to do," Mr. Messier said. "They came back, worked the minimum amount of time, got their bonuses, and left."
According to company figures, nearly 1,100 members of the Metal Trades Council have left EB since July 1, the day the strike began. It ended Oct. 12.
"This is somewhat higher than normal attrition, which was anticipated
because of the strike," Neil D. Ruenzel, EB's chief spokesman, said Wednesday.
Electric Boat, a subsidiary of Generaly Dynamics Corp., is the nation's sole builder of Trident missile firing submarines and also constructs smaller, attack submarines.
While an estimated 10,200 workers were in the MTC bargaining unit about a year ago, the number dwindled to slightly less than 10,000 last spring. Mr. Messier said Wednesday that his union currently has 9,149 members, down from 9,408 in December.
Mr. Messier said that roughly 70 percent of those who have left were skilled, veteran employees earning the first-class pay grade of $12.02 an hour. First-class workers will continue earning $12.02 until 1991, when workers get a 3 percent raise, their only general pay hike over a four-year contract.
Mr. Ruenzel said 8,507 MTC members are currently working at the shipyard while 685 have not returned from the strike, including 252 who are not fit for active employment either due to injury, sickness or other problems.
Mr. Ruenzel said EB has extended insurance and medical coverage through Feb. 3 for workers who were not recalled following the MTC strike. Several hundred MTC jobs were lost permanently during the strike either because of permanent subcontracting or off-loading of work to EB's out-of-state plants.
The MTC struck July 1 with demands for a wage increase of 13 percent over three years. They settled for one 3 percent raise in the third year of a four- year contract, plus bonus payments in the other years.
During the strike, EB insisted that maintaining labor costs was crucial to the company's ability to compete for future Navy submarine contracts, including the SSN-21 Seawolf contract that EB competed for against a Virginia shipbuilder.
On Jan. 9, EB won a $725 million contract to build the first Seawolf, a newly designed nuclear attack submarine, but the news appeared to have little effect on the morale of the blue-collar work force.
During a company victory rally the next day, an estimated 6,000 angry workers booed their general manager when he tried to congratulate them on the new contract.