CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 5) — The United Steelworkers said the National Labor Relations Board has issued complaints against Continental Tire North America Inc. and will listen to charges that the firm refused to provide information requested by the USW during recent contract negotiations and failed to examine all avenues to reach a settlement.
Continental has a right to appeal. A spokesman said the company was notified that a meeting to examine labor negotiations between Conti and the USW over the last six months has been scheduled. The tire maker said it has already submitted a brief and supporting evidence to the board.
The NLRB could force the firm to reinstate workers laid off since March, reimburse them for lost wares and benefits, and resume tire production operations at the Charlotte factory, the union said.
The company will stop manufacturing tires at the plant July 7 and 360 workers will be laid off. Production is being relocated to lower-cost Conti facilities. The Charlotte site will remain open and be used for rubber mixing, calendering, puncture sealant production and as a warehouse.
Conti began laying off workers in March and about 100 members of the 1,100-employee work force in place in July 2005 will remain at the factory.
"It became increasingly obvious during negotiations that Conti didn´t intend to bargain in earnest," charged Ron Hoover, USW executive vice president. Company officials maintained they needed $32 million in annual cuts at the site in order for it to operate on par with other Continental plants. However, the union maintained, the firm never explained how it came up with that amount.
"We see these charges as validation of our statements that the company presented us with an unjustified ´take it or leave it´ proposal," said Mark Cieslikowski, president of USW Local 850.
In a prepared statement, Conti said: "CTNA made every effort to negotiate an agreement with the Steelworkers to preserve jobs in the Charlotte plant, but the unions repeatedly rejected the company´s proposals. CTNA is confident that once all the facts are presented, the NLRB will conclude that CTNA´s bargaining conduct fully complied with applicable laws."
Cieslikowski said he expected the hearing to be held sometime in August.