ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — Union workers continued to picket INEOS Pigments on Thursday for unfair labor practices.

The strike goes on despite renewed bargaining talks, Plant 2 workers are set to carry on with their five-day-old strike for better health care and a return to pensions for retirees.

The picket line at the intersection of State and Middle roads — just down the road from the titanium dioxide production facility at 2426 Middle Road — boasted 30 union employees.

They carried signs reading, “Stop the War on Workers,” “Teamsters Local 377 Strike,” and “International Chemical Workers 1033C Strike.”

“We are still on a ULP strike is a strike,” said Ralph “Sam” Cook, a trustee with Teamsters Local 377, on Thursday.

A ULP strike is a strike provoked by an employer’s legally documented specific violation of the rules of engagement, such as refusing to provide a union with requested information, repeated contract violations, failure to bargain ‘in good faith,’ or disciplining people for union activity.

Cook said because the employees care about the company’s operations and did not want to create any type of unsafe conditions, they notified the company of the impending strike beforehand.

Jed Dowdy, Ashtabula site operations director, said in a March 12 letter to all Ashtabula complex employees that the union did notify them and they prepared a contingent workforce of management level, and non-represented workers to fill in for the picketers.

“Our goal at Plant 2 is to reach a competitive agreement without a work disruption,” Dowdy said. “The company has negotiated in good faith since January 5, 2022, and we will continue to do so.”

The strikers said that’s not true.

Cook said the bargaining unit employees will return to work if the company agrees to seven conditions, including no retaliation; unilateral changes in terms and conditions of employment; and stop saying, “It is what it is,” and stop making threats during negotiations.

“If the company agrees to these conditions, the strikers will return to the plant,” according to an email union workers sent to Gus Lopez, labor relations manager for INEOS.

INEOS is one of the largest producers of titanium dioxide in North America and the leading producer of titanium chemicals.

Plant 2 in Ashtabula employs about 140 people.

In September 2021, the Plant 2 employees voted to form a union after the company increased the cost of family healthcare by more than $100 per week, and began utilizing under-trained subcontractors to work at the facility.

In addition to the chemical giant’s elimination of pensions and affordable healthcare, INEOS workers filed unfair labor practice charges last July against the company for changing working conditions without bargaining. The schedule change significantly reduced some of the workers’ income, Cook said.

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