Bell Helicopter, Union Resume Talks

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Bell Helicopter and union representatives resumed negotiations Thursday for the second time since nearly 2,500 manufacturing workers went on strike nearly a month ago, company and union officials said.

Members of the United Auto Workers Local 218 voted to strike June 14 after they rejected a three-year contract because of proposed increases in medical costs and plans to outsource janitors' work. Both sides met last week without reaching a resolution.

Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. has brought in about 1,000 temporary workers at plants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where helicopter parts are made, company spokesman Tom Dolney said.

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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