Union workers at Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. voted on Sunday to reject a proposed contract that the company said was its best offer.

Members of auto and aerospace workers union Local 218 voted against the measure by a 3-to-1 margin - 1,390 to 476 - against the proposed 3 year contract.

We regret that the two sides were unable to reach agreement on this contract before the Sunday night deadline, said P.D. Shabay, the Fort Worth-based company's executive vice president. Negotiations were to continue.

“This package is without question the best package offered to any aerospace workers’ group in the industry, and particularly in the local area,” Shabay said. “Ratification of this offer will help keep Bell Helicopter competitive in the aerospace industry.

The union and company leader both emphasized the importance of health care costs. The company said its average cost per employee rose to $18,000, from $6,000, since 1999. Shabay said the company cant compete with that kind of drain on our resources.

Textron shares fell $1.89 or 2.24 percent to close at $85.51on Tuesday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.