Workers formed a picket line in front of a Guelph auto parts manufacturing plant on Monday.

Approximately 60 employees of Hematite Manufacturing were locked out Sunday morning. The previous day, they had rejected the company’s latest contract offer by a margin of one vote.

“They just hammered us with everything. It’s too much,” says Heather Rankin, vice-president of Workers United Canada Council Local 2580, which represents workers at Hematite’s plant on Speedvale Road.

Rankin says the unionized workers understand that the company has fallen on “hard times” and are willing to negotiate, but haven’t seen the same willingness from management.

She says the company is trying to force through cuts to wages, vacation allotments and benefits, as well as move the plant to a rotating shift schedule.

“We haven’t really negotiated. The company’s just given us a bunch of demands,” she says.

Bruce Fildey, who has worked at Hematite for 26 years, says employees are looking for “a little bit of respect” from the company, and would rather be doing their jobs than holding a picket.

“No one benefits by (us) being out here,” he says.

Other employees worry that the company is looking to move work currently done in Guelph to facilities in other cities.

Hematite officials declined CTV Kitchener’s request for an interview, but CEO Jacques Nadeau did issue a statement by email, saying the company’s offer was designed to make the Guelph plant “competitive and productive” to help attract new business.

With reporting by Victoria Levy