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MEDIATOR SOUGHT IN MONOFRAX STRIKE

Unions at Monofrax Inc. in Falconer are calling in a federal mediator in hopes of ending a strike that began Monday against the maker of industrial composites, officials said.

About 210 workers struck the company at the expiration of their three-year contract at midnight Sunday, after rejecting a company proposal to cut wages, union leaders said.

"The company asked for a concession package and we weren't willing to do that," said Norm Smith, assistant district business representative for the International Association of Machinists.

Machinists Local 2420 represents 17 inspectors and technicians at the Chautauqua County plant. Production workers are represented by the International Brotherhood of Firemen & Oilers Local 27, with about 190 members. Both unions' contracts expired Monday.

Picketing of the plant at 1870 New York Ave. in Falconer has been without incident, Smith said.

Monofrax will "take whatever steps are necessary to maintain production operations," general manager Glenn Wrap said in a statement. The factory, formerly a unit of Carborundum Co., makes "fused cast refractory material," a furnace lining material used primarily in glass manufacturing.

The machinists have called for help from federal labor mediators, but no new talks are scheduled, Smith said. Negotiations ended Friday.

"We're willing to meet -- right now it's up to them," Smith said. Wrap's statement said that the company is confident a new contract will be in place shortly.

Monofrax is part of the ceramics division of Cookson Group plc under its subsidiary Vesuvius Crucible Co.. It employs about 370 people at the Falconer site.

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