NEW HAVEN, Conn., May 1, 2002 (AP) - Some 3,000 carpenters across the state went on strike Wednesday morning after contract negotiations with general contractors broke down.

The walkout will affect hundreds job sites around the state, said Bert Durand, a spokesman for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

"Members are on strike today, but getting an exact number of carpenters on strike is a little difficult," Durand said.

Durand said the union and the Associated General Contractors of Connecticut could not agree on wages and other issues. The previous 3-year contract ran out at midnight Tuesday.

Compensation for carpenters who work on building construction is currently $31.40, which not only includes the hourly wage, but pension plans, health funds and annuity, said Marvin B. Morganbesser, the president of the construction association. The comparable package for carpenters involved in heavy highway construction is currently $28.85, he said.

The CCIA offered package increases of $5.50 per hour for building work over three years and $8.05 for heavy highway construction, Morganbesser said. The union was seeking a $7.50 increase for building work, and $10.05 for highway construction, he said.

"Carpenters are a basic craft, are involved in many projects throughout the state and (the strike) will impact a lot of construction jobs, some that are very time sensitive," Morganbesser said Wednesday.

Durand said not all 250 members of the contractors associations will be affected since some have project labor agreements.

Carpenters met Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. at their local union halls before fanning out to job sites across the state to picket.

"Nobody ever wants to go on strike," Durand said. "But this union has worked very hard. Carpenters want their share. We're not asking for everything. Negotiations have broken down. This was a last resort."

The strike involves locals 24, 43 and 210 of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. Local 24 includes eastern Connecticut, Local 43 covers the Hartford area and Local 210 includes western Connecticut. More than 5,000 carpenters are in the three locals.

Contractors and construction companies are hoping to settle the strike soon.

"We're not in the business of not working, not in the business of taking strikes and stoppages lightly. We want to build," Morganbesser said.

Copyright 2002, The Associated Press