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Holten Meat workers now picketing around the clock as strike continues at Sauget plant

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A strike that began Saturday at the Holten Meat Co. plant in Sauget is intensifying, with the facility’s unionized workers announcing Monday that they would extend picketing to all hours of day and night.

At issue is not higher pay, but a “quality of life” dispute according to a statement from Local 655 of the United Food & Commercial Workers. The union is protesting the company’s policy that does not allow night-shift workers to bid for consideration when day-shift jobs become available, with those openings typically going to outside hires instead of company veterans.

“Holten Meat doesn’t want to show them the respect they deserve and give them the chance to advance on the job,” the union statement said. “We believe hardworking employees who have been with a company for years have earned consideration from their employer.”

The company in a statement said the strike presents “a difficult challenge,” but the plant will continue operation. “We will strive to resolve this matter in a timely and sincere manner while continuing to deliver the service that our customers expect and deserve,” the company said. ”We look forward to Union members returning to work following a peaceful resolution of this dispute.”

The company declined to comment further, and union representatives did not know whether replacement workers were being brought in to keep the plant running.

“I know our members are honoring the picket line,” said Garry Torpea, director of collective bargaining for Local 655.

Torpea said the plant employs about 250 union members. The strike began immediately after they soundly rejected a second contract offer from Holten on Saturday.

Contract negotiations have lasted for more than three months, according to company representatives.

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