BRYAN, Ohio-The United Steelworkers and Dortmund, Germany-based Rosler Group are airing contradictory views on whether they have a deal that will open the way for Rosler to purchase Continental Tire North America Inc.´s Bryan, Ohio, OTR plant.
Paul Rosler Jr., managing director and CEO of Rosler Group, had said that the German off-the-road tire retreader signed an agreement on June 16 with Ron Hoover, a contract coordinator for the USW. In that deal, Rosler said the company agreed to similar terms the USW and Conti have in their current labor contract.
"We wanted to mirror the existing plan that they had," Rosler said. The company had agreed to retain all 257 union employees at the factory, he said, and provide a pension plan similar to the one the USW has with Conti.
A Rosler news release said its new U.S. entity, Rodos Giants L.L.C., would acquire and operate the factory.
Meanwhile, Conti would be responsible for all legacy costs, according to Rosler, who together with his brother Martin, also managing director of Rosler Group, came to Ohio for bargaining talks.
As further pictorial proof, a photo taken on the day of the signing of the memorandum was sent out by Mel Kurtz, an investor working with Rosler on union negotiations. It shows a smiling Martin Rosler-his arm around Chad Apaliski of the USW-standing next to Hoover and Paul Rosler.
However, the USW called the "deal" tentative, saying it had only reached a memorandum of understanding, and that Local 890L in Bryan rejected that on June 20, according to John Bowling, chair of the local and a lead negotiator.
USW headquarters in Pittsburgh then issued a statement June 21 saying that Rosler Group "will not purchase" the Bryan facility because it failed to reach a new contract with the union.
"We just broke off talks yesterday," Bowling said. "The local´s executive board needed to approve the memorandum and then put the terms up to its membership for ratification, which the local´s board refuses to do."
Bowling declined to discuss the points of disagreement. Without union ratification of a contract, Rosler Group cannot complete its intended purchase of the Bryan facility from Conti by July 31.
Hoover said the memorandum was not a tentative agreement and it listed several items of disagreement between the two parties. He declined to discuss those items, but acknowledged that the proposed contract had similarities to the union´s existing contract with Conti.
Hoover said he was surprised that Paul Rosler had said that the company was pleased to have reached an agreement with the union and "will continue with the acquisition." He said Rosler was aware that the memorandum needed to be ratified by Bryan Local 890L before the sale of the plant could close.
The USW and Conti are discussing the matter, Hoover said, and the union is willing to work with another buyer if Conti wants to sell the factory to someone else. He added that he has not spoken to the Rosler Group since the union broke off talks on June 20, nor are any future talks with firm scheduled.
Kurtz later said that "we believe one thing and they (USW) believe another, and I guess it will have to get cleared up."