News Briefs – July 13, 2020

Shipbuilder files complaint over union threats during strike

Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works on July 10 filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing its largest union of threatening workers who cross the picket line during an ongoing strike in Maine.
The company accused leaders of Machinists’ Local S6 of threatening so-called scabs with fines and loss of benefits — and hinting at violence.
“We are extremely disappointed that union leaders would make false and threatening statements to the very employees they are supposed to represent,” said BIW President Dirk Lesko. “We take these issues very seriously and will continue to ensure our employees’ rights are protected.”
Union leaders in a statement warned that anyone who chooses to cross the picket line will be fined after the strike is over and had this to say about scabs: “No man has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with.”
Jay Wadleigh, a district business representative for the Machinists, said the quote came from a Jack London poem, “Ode to a Scab.”
“Maybe they should study poetry a little more,” Wadleigh said of the shipyard’s managers.
Wadleigh insisted that production workers who cross the picket line are no longer eligible for union benefits, and may face fines, as well. The number of striking workers who’ve chosen to return to their jobs is small — roughly a dozen, he said.
About 4,300 Local S6 workers went on strike June 22 after overwhelmingly rejecting the company’s proposal in dispute that’s primarily centered on subcontractors, work rules and seniority while wages and benefits are a secondary concern.
The company’s final offer that was rejected called for a three-year contract with pay raises of 3 percent in each year.
Bath Iron Works is one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders and a major employer in Maine, with 6,800 workers. The General Dynamics subsidiary builds Navy destroyers, the workhorse of the fleet.
The strike, with workers losing company-funded insurance during a pandemic, threatens to put the shipyard further behind schedule in delivering the destroyers to the Navy at a time of growing competition from China and Russia. AP

Cyprus: U.S. military training won’t harm Russia, China ties

Cyprus’ government said July 10, 2020, that a U.S. decision to provide education and training to the island nation’s armed forces won’t hamper relations with either Russia or China.
Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides said “there’s no question” of disrupting the country’s ties with Russia and that inclusion in the U.S. training program doesn’t mean “that we cut relations with other countries.”
Petrides’ remarks echoed President Nicos Anastasiades who hailed the U.S. decision but noted that Cyprus’ relations with Russia and China “will never be perturbed.”
“A small country like Cyprus strives to build the best possible relations with all permanent Security Council member states,” Anastasiades said at a gas terminal groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said July 8 that the U.S. would for the first time provide military education and training funding to Cyprus following congressional approval.
“This is part of our efforts to enhance relationships with key regional partners to promote stability in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Pompeo said.
The announcement prompted criticism from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, whose spokesman Hamit Aksoy said the move would neither help efforts to reunify ethnically split Cyprus nor “ensure peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean.”
Turkey cut diplomatic ties with Cyprus after the island nation was cleaved along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup aiming at union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and deploys more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north.
Cyprus is striving to bolster relations with the U.S., but not at the expense of its ties to Moscow or Beijing on whose support it often counts in the United Nations.
The centerpiece of improved Cyprus-U.S. ties is the Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Partnership Act that U.S. lawmakers approved last year.
Military training funding for Cyprus was included in the legislation which underscores U.S. support for a partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel based on recently discovered offshore gas deposits in the region.
The act would also lift a 33-year-old arms embargo on Cyprus on the condition that the island nation denies Russian warships access to its ports for “refueling and servicing,“ according to the U.S. State Department. AP

Iran signs agreement to bolster Syria’s air defense systems

Iran’s military chief has signed an agreement with Syria’s president to reinforce Syria’s air defense systems as part of a military cooperation agreement, Iranian state TV reported July 10.
Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, met with Syria President Bashar Assad during his second visit to Syria since 2019.
Assad said the agreement signed by both sides is the result of “years of cooperation for confronting terrorism” in Syria.
Bagheri said it “will improve the determination of the two nations to confront U.S. pressures.” He didn’t elaborate.
U.S. ally Israel has occasionally attacked Iranian forces in Syria that Iran says are there to support Syria’s fight against rebel groups as part of the country’s 9-year civil war.
Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In a brief video aired on Iranian state TV, Assad is seen receiving Bagheri and his delegation.
In November, Israeli fighter jets hit multiple targets belonging to Iran’s elite Quds force in Syria following rocket fire on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
Iran, which rarely comments on Israeli strikes, is the No. 1 regional supporter of Assad while also supporting anti-Israel militant groups like Palestinian Hamas and Hezbollah. AP

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