Bell Helicopter, Union Remain At Odds

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Bell Helicopter and union representatives said they planned another day of negotiations Friday after Thursday's talks left them at an impasse a month after nearly 2,500 manufacturing workers went on strike.

"We continue to work toward a resolution that meets the needs of Local 218 members and allows Bell Helicopter to remain competitive," company spokesman Tom Dolney said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Tom Wells, the negotiating chairman for United Auto Workers Local 218, said Thursday's meetings lasted about six hours and called the company "obstinate" in a message on the union's Web site. Union officials did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Union members voted to strike June 14 after rejecting a three-year contract because of proposed increases in medical costs and plans to outsource janitors' work. Negotiators met once last week without reaching a resolution.

Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc., has brought in about 1,000 temporary workers at plants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dolney said. Parts are made at those plants, but the helicopters are assembled at nonunion plants in Amarillo and Canada, he said.

Dolney said Bell has continued delivering components and aircraft on time to its customers, including the military. He said the union's claims that the company was losing money and having problems inside the plants were "rumors."

"It's still business as usual as far as getting aircraft built," Dolney said.

Meanwhile, striking workers have been marching with signs outside the nine plants as temperatures have reached 100 degrees or higher for nine days since mid-June.

Paul Martinez, vice president for UAW Local 218, said some drivers have thrown Bibles and cursed at picketers but no one has been injured.

"We're doing OK picketing. We have strong morale," Martinez said.

Messages on the union's Web site urged members to "stay strong" and "don't give in to the company's mind games."

Another union, United Auto Workers Local 317, approved its three-year contract with Bell last month. It represents 340 office and clerical workers at Bell Helicopter plants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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