PITTSBURGH (March 10) — Continental Tire North America Inc.´s announcement to suspend tire production at its Charlotte, N.C. plant this September is not a surprise, the United Steelworkers union commented today.
"The news today is totally consistent with CTNA´s inability to understand and operate in this environment," said USW executive vice president Ron Hoover, who heads the union´s Rubber/Plastics Industry Conference. "We view it as another step in CTNA´s pre-determined plan to abandon the North America market."
The USW and CTNA have been engaged in talks to see if maintaining the Charlotte productivity is possible. The company has demanded $32 million in yearly concessions, but the union claims Conti hasn´t demonstrated the need for these savings. The USW has offered proposals to reduce costs and improve productivity and efficiencies, but Conti has "flat-out refused to look at ways to enhance productivity," the union said.
The indefinite suspension plan is part of the firm´s restructuring program aimed at reducing manufacturing costs and improving the performance of Conti´s North American passenger tire business, according to Alan Hippe, president and CEO on the Continental Tire North America.
Hoover, however, said the company has refused to "engage us in a productive process that would yield a business plan to preserve the production of tires in Charlotte and the long-term viability of Continental in North America."
If the suspension is implemented, about 478 hourly and salaried employees at the facility will be laid off, Conti said. The firm emphasized it did not plan to close the plant and will continue rubber mixing, calendering, puncture sealant and warehousing operations to support its other manufacturing facilities.