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Economy and Business

Work stoppage at Aurora bearing company enters ninth month
United Steelworkers say Rotek has locked them out, but company calls it a strike

Kabir Bhatia
Union President Bill Hyslop has been with Rotek for 34 years and says the company's current management is not as sympathetic as in the past
Courtesy of K. Bhatia
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In The Region:
A work stoppage at Aurora bearing company Rotek is now in its ninth month. More than 120 workers are on the picket line, saying the company’s contract offers call for too many wage, holiday and insurance concessions. 
Work stoppage at Aurora bearing company enters ninth month

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United Steelworkers Local 8565 went out in mid-January after contract negotiations broke down with Rotek. About 180 people hit the picket line, including 60 who are on layoff, a result of the downturn in demand for the company’s bearings for wind turbines.

German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp owns Rotek, and told the Ravenna Record-Courier that its contracts have offered some of the highest compensation packages in comparable industries. The company could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Union President Bill Hyslop, who's been at Rotek for 34 years, says it's not just a matter of economics, but also of union busting.

“I think they chose this time, what they perceive as a weak economy, to try and break us. And what better time than when they don’t need us in there?

“The best thing would be if wind energy picks back up. There’s been pretty much a total change in management in the last six years. Before, we respected each other. That’s no longer there.”

Union members say the job action is a lockout, and that members walked after the company imposed its last, best contract offer in January. Rotek calls it a strike.

Workers are receiving unemployment – a rarity in strike situations – although the company has filed suit, appealing that as well. The last contract proposal – in May – was rejected by a vote of 122-2. Hyslop says the two sides are slated to come back to the table in the next few weeks to discuss possible insurance terms of a new contract.
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