FINDLAY, Ohio—The status of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s contracts with unionized workers at its Texarkana, Ark., and Findlay plants is in the hands of an arbitrator, who will determine whether Cooper's planned sale to India's Apollo Tyres Ltd. violates successorship provisions of the union's contract with Cooper.
The arbitration hearing took place Aug. 28, according to information in the proxy statement Cooper filed today ahead of a planned Sept. 30 special shareholders' meeting to vote on the proposed sale to Apollo.
The United Steelworkers union—which represents rank-and-file workers at the Texarkana and Findlay plants—filed a grievance on Aug. 1 alleging that Cooper had violated the successorship provisions of the collective bargaining agreement applicable to each plant by entering into the merger agreement with the Apollo parties tasked with effecting the buyout.
The union argues that the representative Apollo parties should be required separately to recognize the USW and the respective factory local unions as the bargaining representatives for the employees and to establish the terms and conditions of employment to be effective at the plants as of the closing of the merger.
Cooper Tire has stated publicly in connection with the merger that the current collective bargaining agreements would continue after the merger.
Cooper and the USW subsequently agreed to binding arbitration regarding this dispute, Cooper said.
Should the USW and the local unions prevail in the arbitration, Cooper or the Apollo parties "could be required to enter into an agreement with the (USW) and each local union establishing different terms and conditions of employment from those in the current agreements" to be effective at Findlay and Texarkana, Cooper said in the proxy statement.
Cooper did not say when it expects the arbitrator to release a ruling.
USW Local 207L workers at Findlay approved a five-year contract with the tire maker in February 2012, and USW Local 752L workers in Texarkana approved their own four-year deal in January 2012.
Cooper's other U.S. plant, in Tupeolo, Miss., is a non-union facility.
Cooper also said workers at its Cooper Chengshan Tire joint venture plant in Rongcheng, China, are back at work after a two separate strikes lasting six weeks, albeit on a "limited basis to manufacture only non-Cooper-branded products …"
The workers, who went on strike to protest the planned sale of Cooper to Apollo, also have taken "other disruptive actions," Cooper said, including denying access to certain Cooper representatives and withholding certain business and financial information.
"We continue to work toward resolving these issues," Cooper said.