Sterling strike starts in St. Thomas

Freightliner LLC's Sterling Truck assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, was shut down by a strike Friday after the DaimlerChrysler subsidiary and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union failed to come to terms over health benefits. CAW, which represents 1,100 union members at the plant, said it rejected the company's demand for new escalating employee payments for health benefit coverage. "This company

Freightliner LLC's Sterling Truck assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, was shut down by a strike Friday after the DaimlerChrysler subsidiary and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union failed to come to terms over health benefits.

CAW, which represents 1,100 union members at the plant, said it rejected the company's demand for new escalating employee payments for health benefit coverage.

"This company already has a $5 U.S. cost advantage over their American plants on health-care coverage and now they want an even greater saving at the expense of their Canadian workforce," said Richard Laverty, who heads the union's Sterling Truck bargaining committee.

A statement issued by Freightliner said its latest offer would have raised the hourly rate for most employees to more than $26.50 over three years and absorbed a "large part" of future benefit increases.

The Sterling Truck plant makes about 70 medium- and heavy-duty trucks a day.

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