BALTIMORE -- Tugboat workers who refused to accept a three-year contract negotiated by their union have lost their jobs with a Port of Baltimore towing company, officials said last week.

"Supposedly we're permanently replaced," said Billy Epps Jr., a union member and member of the local bargaining committee. He said none of the strikers has crossed the picket line.

The 46 tugboat workers with Curtis Bay Towing Co. were told to return to their jobs by noon Monday or face dismissal. Workers defied the company's request and have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, charging the Seafarers International Union with "accepting a contract which employes voted to reject."

The new three-year contract reduces the union members' benefits and gives the company more flexible work rules.

But union leaders said the contract is better than the company offer that brought on the strike.

In the new contract, the five-day, 40-hour work schedule has been replaced by a two days on, one day off schedule for tugboat workers. The schedule would require the tugboat workers to be on duty for 30 days and off 15 days.

"We've been told that if we had accepted it would have substantially hurt our position," Epps said.

Rank-and-file members of the union said Monday they would continue to picket the Curtis Bay Towing Co., just days after rejecting the new agreement that had the support of union leaders.

Union members at the Port of Baltimore's other major tug firm, Baker-Whiteley Towing Co., also said they would continue their walkout, which started Oct. 7.

"I'm not going back," said Bob Gordy, who has been on the docks since 1944.

"Most of the men felt it wasn't a job anyway if we went back," said Gordy, a Baker-Whiteley worker. "Who wants to work 48 hours?"

Curtis Bay's Norfolk, Va., operation made its replacement workers permanent last week.

Gordy said a contract similar to Baltimore's will be offered to Philadelphia tug workers this week.