MAYFIELD, Ky. (Nov. 22)—The United Steelworkers of America Local 665 broke off bargaining with Continental Tire North America Inc. over the severance package for employees to be laid off with the upcoming cessation of tire production at the Mayfield plant.
"We are very disappointed by the union´s decision to break off negotiations at this time," said Nick Fletcher, Conti vice president of human resources.
Conti said its new proposal—presented during negotiations Nov. 18-19—increased the severance payments to $8,000 for all hourly employees with one or more years of service, whereas its prior proposal called only for the most senior workers to get that amount. The tire maker also boosted the proposed amount to be put into a special transition assistance fund for the benefit of laid off workers to $1.5 million from $1.1 million.
About 700 hourly workers will lose their jobs when Conti suspends tire operations at Mayfield by year-end and uses the factory just for mixing and warehouse operations.
The union said Conti´s latest proposal was concessionary and would cost the workers a considerable amount of money to continue health insurance coverage, according to Local 665 President Terry Beane. "In our opinion, there was very little change at all," he said.
Beane added that the union plans to pursue grievance and arbitration procedures to have the matter handled as a plant closure, rather than layoff, because more than 80 percent of hourly workers are affected. That would bring added benefits to the union members.