PITTSBURGH (Nov. 3) — A letter dated today sent to James Allen, director of Goodyear global labor relations, said that the United Steelworkers would return to the bargaining table with company officials if the tire maker "is prepared to make a proposal that provides security to all Steelworker factories."
The message also said that if Goodyear insisted on "using a trust to provide retiree health care, fund it with enough resources so that current employees can expect to receive benefits consistent with the existing program when they retire."
The letter, signed by eight USW officials and committee members, cited Allen´s comments in an Oct. 31 correspondence directed to Goodyear´s USW-represented employees, which said the company "remains ready to return to Cincinnati (the traditional site for USW/Goodyear negotiations) to continue bargaining toward a new labor agreement."
More than 15,000 unionized workers at 16 U.S. and Canadian Goodyear sites went on strike Oct. 5, with job security and providing retiree health care among the biggest issues separating the two sides. On Oct. 30, the company announced it plans to close its Tyler, Texas, tire facility, eliminating about 1,100 jobs and saving $50 million per year after taxes.
The Nov. 3 letter to Allen said that during a meeting this morning he "reiterated the company´s position that, despite the union providing you with numerous reasonable alternatives, the company is intent on continuing to close North America tire factories." The document also claimed the company proposes setting up a trust fund that "will run out of money in a few years, leaving people who worked a lifetime building the company with nothing."
Allen´s Oct. 31 letter was sent with the intent to "separate fact from fiction" in regards to Goodyear´s latest proposals on a new contract, covering not only job security, plant protection and retiree medical benefits, but also wages, pension, cost-of-living allowances, active medical benefits, profit sharing, capital investments and new hire language.
In his letter, Allen said the company proposed to continue job security provisions and plant protection at all U.S. plants covered by the master contract except for Tyler. He also said the independent trust fund for current and future retirees would secure their benefits for "many years into the future."
The union responded two days later with a point-by-point rebuttal to Allen´s comments.