Columbus (Ohio): Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co workers approved a new contract that will prevent the potential closing of a half-dozen plants in the next four years, union leaders said Saturday.
The United Steelworkers said the agreement covers about 10,300 workers. Voting concluded at seven plants late Friday.
The contract requires minimum staffing levels at six of the seven Goodyear plants and prevents the company from shifting production to any facility not represented by the steelworkers union. It also calls for Goodyear, based in Akron, Ohio, to invest USD 600 million at the plants, keeping them up-to-date.
"This agreement reflects the commitment of Goodyear and the USW to continue to work together to achieve our common goal of world-class competitiveness," said Richard Kramer, Goodyear`s chief operating officer.
The company planned to discuss the deal with investors during a Monday conference call.
The new contract includes wage and benefit increases, improved pensions for some workers, and continuation of previous cost-of-living provisions for all workers, the union said.
The deal protects factories in Akron, Ohio; Gadsden, Ala.; Buffalo, NY; Topeka, Kan.; Danville, Va.; and Fayetteville, N.C.
A plant in Union City, Tenn., which employs about 1,700 workers, was the only one not protected. A local agreement negotiated in April provided for as many as 600 workers there to receive buyouts, the union said.
The Tennessee factory has been severely hurt by the economic downturn and an influx of cheap tires from China, Steelworkers spokesman Gerald Dickey said. Chinese imports represented almost 17 percent of the U.S. tire market last year.
President Barack Obama has ordered steep, additional US tariffs on Chinese tyres for three years, including 35 percent in the first year. The increases come on top of the current 4 percent tariff.
The Steelworkers union hopes the additional tariffs will bring work back to the Tennessee plant, Dickey said. If that happens and the economy turns around, negotiators there could seek the protected status enjoyed by other plants, he said.
Goodyear, the biggest US-based tyre maker and third largest globally, has said the agreement will improve the company`s productivity and flexibility.
The company operates more than 60 plants in 25 countries and has nearly 70,000 employees.
Goodyear reported in July that it lost USD 221 million in the second quarter as upheaval in the US auto industry and the global recession cut sales 25 percent from a year ago. The company launched 19 new products in the second quarter, cut costs by another USD 200 million and eliminated 1,700 jobs.