FORT WORTH — Bell Helicopter and United Auto Workers Local 218 have reached a “tentative agreement” on a new contract, which union members will vote on Sunday, according to the union website.More than 2,500 machinists, packers and forklift operators are expected to vote on the latest proposal at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Texas Hall at the University of Texas at Arlington, 701 W. Nedderman Drive.If approved, a deal would end months of discord between the union and the company, including two contract rejections and a one-day walkout in September. Details of the agreement were not disclosed.“The union continues to review the company proposals in preparation for the Sunday ratification meeting,” the union website said. Bell Helicopter spokesman Bill Schroeder said the company is hopeful about approval.“We are encouraged by the discussions we have been having with the UAW Local 218 bargaining committee and look forward to returning to normalcy after months of working without a contract,” Schroeder said Thursday.The two sides have been divided by company proposals that would raise healthcare premiums and reduce pension and overtime benefits. New employees would no longer have access to the traditional defined-benefit plan and would instead rely on a 401(k)-style plan.In addition, some workers have feared that a provision in the contract proposal would allow the company to replace union workers at will. Workers have been without a contract since June. Throughout negotiations, Bell President and CEO John Garrison has said the company bargained “in good faith and presented a highly competitive offer” to UAW Local 218 employees. “The company has presented a world-class offer that would continue our tradition of providing employees represented by UAW Local 218 with industry-leading wages, yearly increases and a competitive benefits package for you and your families,” Garrison said earlier.According to the contract proposal, the Bell union workers, on average, earn base rates of more than $66,518 a year.Bell employs nearly 7,000 people in Tarrant County. Last month, the company laid off 290 hourly and salaried workers, plus 85 contract employees, citing reductions in defense spending.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705 Twitter: @yberard