CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The National Labor Relations Board has filed complaints against Continental Tire North America Inc. regarding the United Steelworkers´ claim that the company negotiated unfairly in recent contract talks.
The NLRB confirmed union charges that Conti refused to provide information requested by the USW during contract discussions and failed to examine all avenues to reach a settlement, according to USW officials. The agency will hold a hearing in August to consider the charges made by the union.
Conti responded in a prepared statement that it "has made every effort to negotiate an agreement with the Steelworkers to preserve jobs in the Charlotte plant, but the union repeatedly rejected the company´s proposals."
The company said it is confident once all the facts are presented, the NLRB will conclude its bargaining conduct fully complied with applicable laws.
A Conti spokesman confirmed the federal agency has scheduled a meeting to examine labor negotiations between the tire maker and the USW over the last six months. The firm has submitted a brief and supporting evidence to the board.
That meeting probably will take place around Aug. 22, said Mark Cieslikowski, president of USW Local 850, which represents workers at the Charlotte tire factory.
The NLRB could force the firm to reinstate workers laid off since March, reimburse them for lost wages and benefits, and resume tire production operations at the Charlotte factory, he said.
The company was scheduled to stop manufacturing tires and lay off 360 workers at the plant on July 7. Conti began cutting staff last March, and of the 1,100-employee work force at the factory in July 2005 only 100 remain.
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.
"It became increasingly obvious during negotiations that Conti didn´t intend to bargain in earnest," charged Ron Hoover, USW executive vice president. Company officials said they needed $32 million in annual cuts at the site for it to operate on par with other Continental plants, and the union said the firm never explained how it came up with that amount.
"We see these (NLRB) charges as validation of our statements that the company presented us with an unjustified ´take it or leave it´ proposal," Cieslikowski said.
The NLRB "supported us in its ruling and said the company negotiated unfairly and failed to show the need for the $32 million it mandated in cuts," he said. "There was no impasse in negotiations, but the company declared one anyway."