By Marilyn Odendahl, Truth Staff 

ELKHART -- The union for striking Vincent Bach employees expects to deliver some cost-cutting ideas to company officials next week, based on talks the sides had at a meeting this week.

Nineteen days after workers walked off the job, the union's bargaining committee sat down Wednesday with representatives from parent company Conn-Selmer. The sides met for less than an hour in Elkhart.

Further talks have not been scheduled, but the union is preparing a written proposal to submit to Conn-Selmer.

"There's nothing going on that got us excited either way -- pro or con," said Larry Foster, international representative for the United Auto Workers. "I would not say it was a failure by any means."

The Bach workers, who are members of the United Auto Workers Local 364, rejected the company's contract on April 1. They were most upset by the contract's language which they see as giving the company too much discretion.

Foster said that during the meeting, the union proposed ideas and options that could save the company some money. He indicated the union would agree to "some changes" in language if those changes made sense.

The union will now put in writing what it proposed at the meeting and give it to the company early next week, said Foster.

The final contract proposed by the Conn-Selmer included provisions that would have let the company set the shop rules after the union ratified the agreement. The rules govern such things as what constitutes minor and major infractions, when workers can take breaks and when they can use the restroom.

On the picket line, Andy Newman, an 11-year employee of Vincent Bach, said signing the contract with that language would have been like "buying a car and not knowing the terms of the financial agreement."

According to previous statements by Julie Theriault, spokeswoman for Steinway Musical Instruments Inc., parent company of Conn-Selmer, the company would have let employees continue working under the same terms and conditions -- primarily wages and benefits -- that the old contract contained. However, if the workers had accepted that offer, they would have been "choosing to continue to work without a contract."

Union members have said they were not willing to work unless they had a signed agreement.

Jerry Stayton, union president, said the striking workers have heard what happened at Wednesday's meeting and remain supportive of the bargaining committee's stance.

"They were glad we didn't try to accept something less than what we know we had to have," he said.

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