CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Feb. 16) — Continental Tire North America Inc. told the United Steelworkers layoffs at the firm´s Charlotte tire plant can be reduced or avoided if negotiators find a way to chop $32 million in annual manufacturing costs at the factory.
During talks between Conti and the union Feb. 15-16, the company said it expected USW Local 850 to make a counterproposal to its earlier plans to make the cuts. But when it didn´t receive such a proposal, Conti said it made a new offer it claims achieves the same reduction in manufacturing costs with less impact on current employees and retirees.
The new proposal includes wage cuts of 15 percent, rather than $3-an-hour reductions across the board, according to a Conti spokesman. He said the tire maker also would put $1 million a year during the life of the contract into a fund to help defray some of the cost impact on retirees as a result of the new medical plan.
Previously, Conti had said it would save the money by reducing its work force by 510 hourly and salaried employees. About 240 hourly workers would be laid off around March 15 and 270 hourly and salaried positions eliminated by June 30, according to Rick Ledsinger, Conti vice president of human resources and chief negotiator.
While still sticking to its $32 million figure, during the Feb. 15-16 talks Conti told the union the layoffs could be avoided. The firm gave the union time to study the proposal over the weekend. Bargaining is to resume Feb. 20-21.
Local 850 President Mark Cieslikowski said the company was more creative in its method of getting $32 million in costs out of the plant. "It´s still concessionary and it´s still taking quite a lot out of the Charlotte plant," he said. "There´s nothing pretty about it."