HOUSTON (Oct. 12)—About half of the 660 employees at the Goodyear Chemical plant in Houston went on strike at 4 p.m. Oct. 10 after negotiations broke down over a new contract agreement. The union´s three year contract ended Aug. 1. Goodyear and the union have been in negotiations off and on since June, the company said. Employees represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 347 walked off the job after the firm said it wanted to replace over 100 employees with lower-paid contract workers to reduce labor costs. Warehouse laborers and production workers the company wants to eliminate reportedly earn about $20 per hour and benefits including health insurance and pension. Goodyear wants to contract the jobs for $10 to $12 without benefits, even after the workers offered to take a 25 percent pay cut. The Houston plant has been given a year to turn itself around after losing $15 million this year. A company spokesman said Goodyear offered ``what we believe to be a fair package for the contract and would hope associates recognize the importance of a fair and equitable settlement to ensure the future viability of this plant.´´ Existing personnel are now working at the plant in order to avoid any interruption, a company spokeswoman said. Goodyear said it is always willing to return to the negotiating table.