BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — More than 100 union members at Beall Corp. in Lockwood, Mont., went on strike after contract talks stalled over health care.
David Bye, president of the Boilermakers Union Local 599, said the company wants union members to pay part of their health insurance premiums, which have been paid entirely by the company.
To cover the cost increase, the semitrailer manufacturing company offered employees a 96-cents-per-hour ''supplemental increase'' in pay in addition to regular raises.
The boilermakers — 114 of whom went on strike Tuesday morning — are concerned that after the proposed three-year contract expires they will be asked to contribute more for premiums without the supplemental compensation.
Bye said the supplemental pay proposal is the company's attempt at getting a ''foot in the door,'' in passing premium costs to employees.
Dave Shannon, vice president and general manager at Beall Trailers of Montana, said the proposal was put together to encourage employees to help reduce health care costs. He said if employees paid part of their premiums, they would shop for more economical health care and prescriptions and take steps toward a healthy lifestyle, which would create savings in the long run.
Shannon said employees stand to benefit by the proposal. All union members will have to contribute 96 cents an hour on a 40-hour work week for the premium cost, which is the same as the hourly pay increase, but they will also receive the 96-cent raise for overtime work. Single employees will receive the 96-cent raise but will make a premium contribution of only 36 cents an hour.
''It's a strange strike because it's not monetary, it's really not,'' Shannon said.
A federal mediator is being brought in on Oct. 23 to help settle the contract.