LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Heaven Hill is ending negotiations with the local union weeks after employees went on strike, saying it has reached an impasse.
The spirits producer said Tuesday its "last, best and final" contract offer will go into effect Oct. 25. If union employees don't accept, the company will start the process of hiring permanent replacement workers.
"Our hope is that our employees will come back," said Emma Hutchens, chief human resources officer at Heaven Hill. "In the event that we don't receive enough returns, we will have to seek permanent replacements."
Since Sept. 11, more than 400 United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23D have been on strike. Union leaders said wages and potential shift changes are the two biggest issues.
"The offer we put forward specifically states that we will never require current employees to go to a non-traditional shift unless they choose to. In the future, when we hire employees, they'll have the option to apply for a non-traditional shift should we offer that," said Hutchens.
Tuesday, workers on strike said they believed some of the information was too vague and wanted clarification.
"I'm just scared with them leaving the door open that they can adjust it however they see fit," said Frankie Carrico, a steward with the Local 23-D and a longtime Heaven Hill employee.
The company and union leaders have been negotiating since late July. And then September, the 400 union members overwhelmingly rejected a five-year contract.
"We are no longer able to negotiate with the union leadership in a productive way," Hutchens said Tuesday. "We've tried to meet all of their desires in the contract and that's why we've had to declare an impasse, and so we're really hopeful that our employees will be ready to come back to work."
The union filed unfair labor practice charges against Heaven Hill with the National Labor Relations Board.
Heaven Hill said in a statement Monday that it had negotiated in "good faith" with the union, but the sides have been unable to reach an agreement.
"We've heard from our employees in the community that they are in favor of the proposed contract terms and eager to return to work," Heaven Hill President Max L. Shapira said. "Given the long-standing and positive working relationship Heaven Hill has with its employees, it is disappointing we were unable to reach an agreement with union leadership."
Local union President Matt Aubrey condemned the company's latest move.
"It is stunning that Heaven Hill is refusing to continue negotiations and is resorting to hiring non-union workers to try to push out the hardworking Kentucky men and women who have worked at the company for generations and made it the success it is today," he said in a statement.
Tuesday, while at the strike, Aubrey and union members remained hopeful negotiations could continue.
Union Leadership and Heaven Hill said the two have had a long-standing relationship.
"We're trying to prevent that from having a dark cloud over it," said Aubrey. We want to continue to have a great relationship with Heaven Hill and the cooperate side of it."
Heaven Hill said its operations have continued with "limited interruptions" during the strike due to a "successful contingency plan."
Heaven Hill has created a website called HeavenHillFacts.com where information can be found about the contract offer and timeline.
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Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.