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Tentative labor agreement reached between shipyard, Steelworkers union

If approved by members, the 60-month contract would "enhance wages" and "improve pensions."

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — There is much to celebrate in recent days at Newport News Shipbuilding.

There was the christening Saturday of the future USS New Jersey.

And, there came word of a tentative agreement on a long-sought new collective bargaining agreement.

United Steelworkers local 8888 calls the new 60-month labor contract: "A pact that would enhance wages, improve pensions, curb health care costs and bolster promotional opportunities in lower job categories."

Union spokesman Dwight Kirk said: "They feel like they need to be respected and appreciated as essential workers." 

Unknown yet-because exact details have not been made public-are, what kind of a raise for workers is involved, and, if management agreed to make Veterans Day a paid company holiday.

"And like in any contract, you can't get everything that you want," said Kirk. "It's a process of compromise. So, there's some areas we wish we could have done better in but were not able to make enough progress. But there are also areas that addressed some of the concerns of our members."

In a letter to employees, shipyard President Jennifer Boykin said, "Our goal was to offer a contract that is fair to our workforce, recognizes the key contributions of our USW employees, attracts new hires, and retains our current workforce."

For now, employees will continue working under an extension of the old contract, until union membership votes on the new one.

The union will hold a secret ballot vote for members-only to ratify or reject the proposed agreement. Voting begins at 5 a.m. Tuesday and will continue until 2 a.m. Wednesday.

If approved, the contract would ensure that work continues uninterrupted on Navy nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers for the next five years.