Workers at a Daimler truck plant in Portland, Oregon, said they plan to restart contract talks with the automaker and hopefully avoid a lengthy strike.
The Swan Island truck plant has four labor unions representing it and two of them has started a strike early Monday, July 1st, due to a pay dispute. The lead negotiator for the unions, Joe Kear, said that he will try to restart talks with the German automaker and hopefully limit the damage of the strike.
“It’s not helpful to anybody,” Kear said. “Everybody is going to have some kind of economic consequence from the strike. So we’re just going to indicate that we’re willing to talk.”
This week the automaker stopped production at the plant, which manufactures 30 Western Star-branded vehicles daily, and it has also cut off the medical benefits to all workers on strike. Talks between Daimler and the unions, regarding a three-year labor deal, have started on June 10th, according to Kear.
The plant’s workers asked for a $4 per hour increase, citing an increase in productivity of 25% since the contract talks in 2010 and four years of salary freezes. Daimler offered a $1.30 hourly wage increase, but also rose medical costs, including copays and deductibles. The Machinists Local 1005 and International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 1094 unions refused the deal and went on strike, while the other two unions accepted the deal.
“The employees took it as a slap in the face,” Kear said, adding that the higher medical costs were “wiping out a good portion of the raise.”