Newport News Shipbuilding Inc. management and its union shipyard workers braced for a protracted strike after more than 8,000 union members walked off the job at the naval shipbuilder's yard in Newport News, Va. Members of the United Steelworkers of America Local 8888 struck the company Monday morning shortly after midnight when contract talks focused on wage and pension issues broke down. Local 8888 President Arnold Outlaw told Reuters he was not aware of any contact from the company by late Monday afternoon. Newport News spokeswoman Jerri Dickseski said no new meetings had been scheduled and said she did not see what would be accomplished by further meetings, reiterating the company had made its final offer. Both sides said they're preparing for the possibility of a prolonged strike. Analysts said the strike could have an effect on pending merger and acquisition activity involving Newport News. Newport News has agreed to buy New Orleans-based shipbuilder Avondale Industries Inc. for about $470 million in stock. General Dynamics Corp., the Falls Church, Va.-based defense contractor, also has made a $1.4-billion unsolicited offer for the shipbuilder. Newport News shares fell 75 cents to close at $30.50 on the NYSE.