(WVLT) - Hundreds of workers at a Loudon muffler manufacturing plant are still on strike.
Members of the International Machinists Local 2545 at the Maremont Plant voted to strike over the weekend and officially went on the picket line sunday at midnight.
Workers say a contract that was offered did not include a pay raise, asked the workers to contribute more toward health care and had their pensions replaced with a 401-K plan.
Maremont and it's owners responded with the following statement:
Maremont Statement Regarding Machinist
Union Decision to Strike
February 7, 2007
We would like our community to be aware of our company's sincere efforts to settle differences and avoid a strike at our Loudon, Tenn., Maremont Exhaust plant by members of the International Machinist Union and its related bargaining group. We had been very hopeful during the last several weeks of contract negotiations that an agreement would be reached resulting in an economically reasonable future for both the employees and the company. After arduous discussions, we were unable to reach an agreement and the Union implemented a strike.
During the past few years, the U S Automotive Industry has experienced downturns at both the new car and the aftermarket which adds non-factory parts and features to new cars. The result has been numerous plants being either downsized or closed, and much of the manufacturing process being outsourced overseas. We, as owner-operators, have chosen to do our best to keep our employees' jobs in Loudon. We are very proud of the fact that at our company, more than 95% of what we sell is manufactured at our plants in the United States. To accomplish this requires enthusiastic managers, outstanding supervisors and a dedicated work force that are supported by an on-site, hands-on owner.
Last year, when we purchased Maremont, our primary goal was to reestablish this company as a successful supplier of exhaust system products to our customers. We have expended enormous amounts of effort and resources implementing a strategy to accomplish this task. It is not easy competing with offshore companies who are not required to provide their employees workers compensation, health care or retirement benefits and only pay less than $2.00 per hour.
We as owners realize our Loudon employees deserve a salary that creates a successful quality of life and health care benefits that ensure their families' needs. Health care costs continue to rise at an alarming rate, yet even under the proposed new agreement, our company would pay 78 percent of our workers' premiums while leaving in place a 401K retirement benefit system through which the company matches up to 5.5 percent of the employees' contributions.
We value all of our Loudon Employees and welcome them to return to work