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Unions hope to revive talks, end strike at Daimler plant

(Reuters) - Unions representing more than 700 workers at a Daimler AG truck factory in Portland, Oregon, hope to revive contract talks with the German company and avoid a lengthy strike, a union official said on Wednesday.

Two of the four unions represented at the Swan Island truck plant have been on strike since early Monday after talks to hammer out a new, three-year labor pact fell apart over the weekend because of a pay dispute.

Joe Kear, who has been lead negotiator for the unions, said in an interview that he will reach out to Daimler on Wednesday to restart talks and limit the damage of the strike.

"It's not helpful to anybody," Kear said. "Everybody is going to have some kind of economic consequence from the strike. So we're just going to indicate that we're willing to talk."

Daimler halted production this week at the factory, which makes up to 30 Western Star-branded vehicles a day. The company also cut off medical benefits to striking active workers.

The company and unions at the plant have been working on a three-year labor deal since June 10, said Kear, a former plant worker and an organizer for the International Association of Machinists District W24.

Workers proposed a $4 per hour wage increase, citing a 25 percent increase in productivity since the 2010 contract talks and four years of pay freezes.

Daimler countered with a $1.30 hourly wage increase, but also increased medical costs, including deductibles and copays.

Members of the Machinists Local 1005 and International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 1094 rejected the offer over the weekend and voted to go on strike. They collectively represent nearly 600 workers.

"The employees took it as a slap in the face," Kear said, adding that the higher medical costs were "wiping out a good portion of the raise."

The other two unions accepted the contracts, according to local media reports this week.

A spokeswoman for Daimler said production at the factory has been halted, but declined to comment further. She said talks between the company and labor representatives were continuing.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman in Detroit and Andreas Cremer in Berlin; editing by Greg Mahlich and Matthew Lewis)

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