Valve Manufacturer's Employees On Strike

Rising health insurance costs and pension benefits dispute spurred 120 Velan Valve workers to walk off the job as their contract expired at midnight Sunday.

WILLISTON, Vt. (AP) — Unionized workers at the Velan Valve Corp. in Vermont are on strike against their employer because of a dispute over health insurance and pension benefits.
 
The 120 workers walked off the job after their three-year contract expired at midnight Sunday.
 
The union's primary concern is health insurance costs, which would rise 28 percent under the contract offered by the company, said union president Mark Nadeau of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2704.
 
He said the 3 percent raises offered to employees for each of the next three years is not enough to offset the health insurance increases.
 
''We will eat some of the cost, but we don't want to eat all of the cost,'' Nadeau said. ''Make it so we do have a raise in our paychecks each week.''
 
Officials with Velan Valve, a subsidiary of Montreal-based Velan Inc., refused comment.
 
The company makes industrial steel valves. It has a dozen manufacturing plants throughout the world, including five in North America.
 
Pensions also are an issue for the Vermont workers.
 
Nadeau said the average employee is about 51 years old, but he would detail the pension package the company is offering.
 
The union represents 120 of the facility's 156 employees.
 
The last strike at the Williston facility occurred 12 years ago, Nadeau said.
 
Negotiations with the company are ongoing, Nadeau said. ''We're moving. We're taking steps — hopefully, going in the right direction.''
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