PITTSBURGH (Feb. 3) — The United Steelworkers union expressed "grave disappointment" upon learning of Michelin North America Inc.´s intent to close its BFGoodrich passenger and light truck tire plant in Kitchener, Ontario later this year.
The tire maker announced Feb. 2 that manufacturing operations will cease on July 22, the expiration date of the current labor contract covering about 1,000 workers in Kitchener.
"We´re extremely disappointed that the company intends to take this action without involving us in any discussions that led up to this decision," said Ron Hoover, USW executive vice president and head of the union´s Rubber/Plastics Industry Conference. "I thought we had a better relationship than this."
The union said in a release that Michelin´s claim that overcapacity in its mass market passenger tire production in North America is the reason for the closure is contrary to the current agreement, which took effect in 2004. The contract, which grants the Kitchener facility plant protection status, provides its workers with a network of job security provisions and commits to investing the necessary capital needed to increase the quantity of higher quality, more profitable tires produced at the Kitchener plant, the USW said.
"It is our intention to sit down with the company as soon as possible and explore every available option for saving the production at the Kitchener plant," said Hoover. "The damage being done to the North American economy by cheap imports is something that needs to be addressed."
In its announcement to close the Kitchener facility, Michelin said production would be shifted to its other North American BFGoodrich plants, located in Opelika and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Fort Wayne, Ind. The hourly workers at those sites also are represented by the USW.