Published on January 16, 2014

Judge dismisses Amiens union suit against Goodyear

CLEVELAND (Jan. 16, 2014) — The Cleveland federal district court has dismissed a French labor union's class action complaint against Goodyear, the latest action in a bitter dispute between the tire maker and workers at its Amiens Nord tire facility in Amiens, France.

Judge Sara Lioi's Jan. 15 decision came on the heels of Goodyear's French business unit suing the Comite d'Etablissement d'Amiens Nord (CGT) labor union for holding two Goodyear Dunlop Tires France executives hostage for two days at the beginning of January.

The CGT filed suit against Goodyear April 9, 2013, in the Summit County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court. At Goodyear's request, the case was moved to Cleveland May 14, and two days later Goodyear filed a motion to dismiss.

The CGT alleged that Goodyear breached its contract with the union when it reduced consumer tire production at the Amiens plant without notifying the union.

According to the class action, Goodyear cut consumer tire production at Amiens by 2.8 million units since 2009 while increasing production significantly at other European tire facilities. The Civil Court of Nanterre twice found Goodyear in violation of the French Labor Code for its activities at Amiens, it said.

The union also accused Goodyear of entering into an agreement with Titan Tire Corp. in December 2010 in which Goodyear pledged to fire its consumer tire employees in exchange for Titan buying the farm tire portion of the Amiens plant.

In granting Goodyear's motion to dismiss, however, Judge Lioi ruled that the CGT failed to prove its case.

"As Goodyear correctly observes, the amended complaint does not point to any provision of the bonus agreement that was breached," Judge Lioi wrote.

"The agreement itself does not guarantee any particular level of production, nor does it prohibit the downsizing of production," she wrote. "In fact, the agreement does not even ensure that the plant will remain open for any period of time."

The CGT alleged that Goodyear breached an implied duty of good faith, but established court precedence contradicts that claim, according to Judge Lioi.

Production levels were the sole factor in determining bonuses at Amiens, and the parties clearly could have foreseen that those levels could drop, Judge Lioi said.

"The (union), on behalf of the putative class, could have bargained for certain guaranteed levels of production but chose not to do so," she wrote.

Relations between management and workers at Amiens have deteriorated steadily for nearly five years, since Goodyear first announced its plans to scale back production at the plant. The union's anger reached a flash point when workers forcibly detained two of their bosses for two days ending Jan. 7.

The executives were identified as Michel Dhelly, director of production at Amiens, and Bernard Glesser, head of the facility's human resources department.

The union released Messrs. Dhelly and Glesser under pressure from local authorities and the police. In an impromptu press conference Jan. 6, CGT leaders said they now plan to occupy the plant.

Goodyear Dunlop Tires France filed suit against the union Jan. 8 with the prosecutor at Amiens. In a statement, the company said it cannot accept "actions that endanger people and goods."

The company did not elaborate on what measures it seeks against the union in the lawsuit.

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To reach this reporter: mmoore@crain.com; 202-662-7211.

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