SALEM, Va.—Union workers staffing Yokohama Tire Corp.'s Salem, Va., tire plant have ratified a new four-year deal with the company.
The majority of United Steelworkers Local 1023's 670 members voted over Memorial Day weekend to accept the pact, which runs through May 16, 2014, according to a summary of the agreement. The previous three-year contract expired May 16, the day the company and union reached a tentative agreement.
The contract contains nonclosure language for the Salem plant for the life of the pact, the summary said. The facility, a Mohawk Rubber Co. site before Yokohama Tire parent Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. purchased the company in 1989, opened in 1968.
Fullerton, Calif.-based Yokohama Tire produces about 5.5 million radial passenger and light truck tire units at the Salem plant annually.
Local 1023 President Steve Jones said he is satisfied with the deal, especially with maintaining the defined benefit pension plan. The union didn't believe the proposed 401(k) defined contribution plan would be adequate for a worker to retire comfortably.
The contract also increased the monthly pension multiplier to $56 per year of service, up from $55.
Rex Simpson, Yokohama Tire vice president, administration, said negotiations went smoothly because the company and union have a positive working relationship and both sides were “open and realistic with their expectations given the current state of the economy.”
The agreement is a “substantial contract with workable solutions,” Simpson said, with both parties able to secure changes they sought. The pact includes:
—a partial return of cost-of-living-allowances diverted in 2007 and secured COLA for new hires;
—a 50-cent diversion of COLA to a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association to help fund retiree health care costs;
—an increase of weekly insurance premiums to $10 for a single person, $20 for a worker and spouse and $30 for a family, from $5/$12/$18. The company had proposed $11/$22/$34, the summary said;
—improvements in safety and health language, including better notification procedures for accidents and a set number of fire drills;
—an increase in the basic life insurance benefit to $50,000 from $45,000; and
—maintenance of the vacation structure, drug costs, accident and sickness benefits, and deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expenses for medical benefits.
The Yokohama contract approval follows the ratification of pacts between the USW and the Big Three tire makers in 2009.
Workers at Michelin North America Inc.'s BFGoodrich tire plants voted to accept a three-year agreement in August, Goodyear's unionized employees approved a four-year deal in September, and USW mem- bers at Bridgestone Americas Inc.'s plants ratified four-year contracts—some of them are separate—in October.
The four-year length of the Yokohama/USW contract followed two of those three agreements, and also kept its future negotiations outside of the scope of the Big Three, Jones said. Yokohama/USW talks traditionally followed the industry bargaining pattern, but when Big Three negotiations were pushed back, so were those for the remaining companies.
“They like to wait and see what happens,” Jones said. “But this way we're talking separately six to eight months later.”
This set of discussions followed parts of the Big Three contracts, but Jones said overall it's a unique pact. “We did what was best for this site,” he said. “We run a different mix and do a lot with fewer employees.”