PITTSBURGH—While plant protection remains the linchpin to negotiating a new contract between Goodyear and the United Steelworkers, both sides are ready to resume talks with a formal negotiating meeting scheduled for Nov. 14.
Goodyear´s negotiating team unilaterally returned Nov. 9 to Cincinnati, the site of earlier contract bargaining, a company spokesman said. It was the same day the firm revealed the full details of its latest offer on its negotiating Web site.
"We´re following through on our position that we are ready to negotiate," the spokesman said.
Also on Nov. 9, the USW released a statement that reiterated "its readiness to bargain."
"We stand ready to bargain a fair labor agreement, as we always have, and assume by this announcement that the company has abandoned its destructive position on closing plants and slashing health care," Tom Conway, a USW International vice president, said in the statement.
More than 15,000 workers at 16 Goodyear sites went on strike Oct. 5, with plant protection, job security and retiree health care benefits the most notable of several sticking points in contract talks. Following Goodyear´s Oct. 30 announcement that it will close the Tyler site, eliminate about 1,100 jobs and save $50 million per year after taxes, negotiators for the two sides met in Pittsburgh Nov. 3-the first "official" meeting since the strike began. However, little was accomplished.
In a letter dated the same day to James Allen, the company´s director of global labor relations, eight USW leaders reiterated the union´s position that plant protection for all facilities and a trust fund large enough to provide retiree health care for current employees in the future will get them back to the table.
The union´s letter also was written in response to an Oct. 31 letter Allen posted on Goodyear´s negotiations Web site to "separate fact from fiction" in regards to the company´s latest proposals on a new contract. Allen´s correspondence covered not only Goodyear´s positions on 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.
The USW responded two days later with a point-by-point rebuttal to Allen´s comments on its Solidarity Web site.
For example, Allen in his letter 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. The union countered by saying in addition to the Tyler closing, the company´s offer didn´t guarantee any new capital investments at USW-represented plants and called for the right to eliminate job guarantees at its Engineered Products unit plants.
Allen, however, said the company has proposed a "substantial increase in capital investments for Steelworker plants."
The USW also asserted the company´s proposal can eliminate the plant protection language if Bridgestone/Firestone-which has yet to reach a new contract agreement with the union-fails to provide similar protection or finalize a contract within six months.
In addition, Allen said an independent trust fund for current and future retirees would secure their benefits for "many years into the future." The USW said Goodyear wants to offer about 50 cents on the dollar of what they owe for retiree health care, and leave the rest to the union. The USW said the fund would be out of money "within a few years."
In a Nov. 4 visit to USW Local 2 in Akron, one of the sites where members are on strike, USW President Leo Gerard expressed his disappointment on how negotiations with Goodyear have progressed.
He also reacted harshly to the company´s confirmation that it was adding temporary workers at plants affected by the strike. "Goodyear´s picked the wrong fight with the wrong union at the wrong time," he said. "We´re not going to tolerate the public not knowing that they intend to make tires with scabs."