AKRON (Dec. 29) — While the United Steelworkers was unable to prevent the Tyler, Texas, plant from closing after Dec. 31, 2007, Goodyear may be forced to shutter another plant first.
"Goodyear must close another non-protected, non-master, non-striking facility before it can close Tyler," the union said in a summary of its new three-year contract with Goodyear.
Union members ratified the contract by a 2-to-1 margin, ending a nearly three-month-old strike at 12 plants in the U.S.
Which other Goodyear plant could face closure, though, is uncertain.
"We will discuss the details of the contract-including the provisions around the closing of Tyler-on a conference call in January," a Goodyear spokesman said.
A spokesman for the United Steelworkers said the union expects the closure to be of a non-union tire plant in North America. He said the agreement to close a second plant is written into the contract, but an exact plant is not named.
Goodyear´s only non-union tire plant in the U.S. is in Lawton, Okla. The union said the contract grants Tyler employees the opportunity for "priority preferential hire" to Lawton.
In Canada, Goodyear´s Napanee, Ontario, tire plant also is non-union. Goodyear´s unionized tire plants there, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Valleyfield, Quebec, are not covered by the U.S. master contract. strike.
The USW spokesman said the union´s aim in seeking a second closure was to have Goodyear prove it truly needed to reduce North American tire capacity instead of merely wanting to close union facilities.
"They need to close something that´s not a USW-represented plant," he said." This is us trying to maximize our ability to protect our jobs, our plants as much as possible."
In its own statement about the contract, Goodyear noted that with Tyler´s closing the company will have removed 14 million units of the 15 million to 20 million units of high cost capacity the company wants to eliminate by 2008.
Lawton has a capacity of about 66,000 units per day while Napanee has a capacity of 20,000 units per day, according to data from Rubber & Plastics News´ Global Tire Report.
Also as part of the contract, the union said Goodyear will offer all Tyler employees a buyout within 30 days of the contract´s ratification. Each employee will be offered $2,000 for each full year of service, with a minimum payment of $15,000 and maximum of $40,000. Employees will have 14 days to apply for the buyout once it is offered.
Employees laid off by the closing who do not take the buyout will receive a weekly benefit of $750 for no less than 15 weeks and no more than 48 weeks. Workers who retire during the first month of the plant closing will receive a $10,000 lump sum payment, the union said.
Laid off employees will continue to receive medical insurance for 24 months at the same premiums as active employees at other master contract plants. That coverage can be extended another 24 months if the employee pays a monthly payment in advance.