A new collective bargaining agreement between the union at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant and its contractor has been put on hold, mainly due to a proposed reduction in jobs.
The prospect of losing more than 30 jobs has kept the United Steelworkers Local 8-495 from signing a new CBA with BAE Systems, the contractor responsible for making munitions at the plant, said union President Robbie Stoots.
Stoots said 87% of the 750 union members who voted last Thursday rejected what would have been a new three-year agreement. He said the proposed job cuts are in the materials and laundry departments.
Stoots — union president since 2008 and a 40-year plant employee — said union members voted unanimously to extend the current CBA by 30 days in an effort to reach an agreement with BAE. That can be done as many times as needed, he said.
The alternative would be to strike, something Stoots said the union wants to avoid.
“We aren’t in a hurry to strike,” he said, explaining that the extension was signed to keep people working so there is no loss of wages.
“We also know how important making munitions for our military is,” he said.
Stoots said union members can vote every 30 days to “walk the contract” in an effort to keep employees protected under the current agreement as opposed to having them working without CBA protections. He said the arsenal is a “federal enclave,” which exempts union members from Virginia’s right to work laws. The two sides have been working on the new agreement since late August.
Stoots said members would also like to see the addition of expedited arbitration of disputes between the union and BAE to the new CBA, as well as some language from a memorandum of understanding — agreements signed between CBAs — on disciplinary procedures.
BAE spokesperson Chris Finley said in an email the two sides agreed not to release the proposed CBA to the public.
“BAE Systems and the United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 8-495 continue contract discussions. ... We are focused on working towards a resolution, and in the meantime, we will continue business operations at the facility in order to maintain customer deliveries,” he wrote.
Finley would not discuss what would happen if 750 of the 1,200 BAE employees did decide to strike.
“We do not intend to speculate on the outcome of our discussions with the Union,” he wrote. “We remain focused on a resolution that will satisfy both parties.”