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Workers on strike at metal plant in Bellefontaine

Workers are picketing at the Daido Metal Plant in Bellefontaine after contract negotiations failed. Workers walked out after their contracts expired Saturday.

Chairman of the bargaining committee for the local United Auto Workers union, Ken Clem said seniority rights were a major issue at the bargaining table. He said the company proposed to eliminate seniority rights.

"We're not really asking for a whole lot," he said. "This is not over economics."

Ron Mason, the attorney representing Daido Metal said the company was in financial distress and were seeking concessions. Clem said seniority rights were hurting factory efficiency.

"Under the contract we we're required to give it to the most senior person even if that person was not qualified for the job," he said.

Negotiations began in May and Clem says the union became frustrated when the bargaining sessions proved to be unproductive.

"It's just like they wanted to stonewall us and get us working without a contract," he said.

But Mason said negotiation delays were caused by the union. He said workers' benefits were extended past the contract's expiration, which is a requirement by law. The union would have received a complete proposal on wages and benefits if the workers cooperated, Mason said.

"Nobody was taking a pay cut when the contract expired," he said. "And on top of that, as far as the negotiations go, the union walked out early on one negotiation and refused to attend two others." The plant, which manufactures engine bearings, continues production. The factory contracted temporary workers. Mason said they plan to hire replacements.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for July 19.