AKRON-The first United Rubber Workers union local to walk off the job this summer also has been the first to approve a new contract. After turning down two previous tentative agreements, members of URW Local 915 at Dunlop Tire Corp.'s Huntsville, Ala., tire plant ratified a new contract Sept. 23, ending a strike that began June 21.
But members of URW Local 1023 at Yokohama Tire Corp.'s factory in Salem, Va., rejected a tentative agreement Sept. 28 by a 581-149 margin.
Meanwhile, the federal court in Des Moines, Iowa, decided Sept. 14 to consolidate two cases involving Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp. and the URW.
In Huntsville, Local 915 voted 1,063-242 to approve an agreement that retains the plant's 12-hour shift schedule and basically follows the benefits part of the pattern contract set earlier by Goodyear, but includes a 75-cent-an-hour pay cut across the board, according to Local 915 member Dan Knoch.
The workers do retain cost-of-living adjustments, but the pact includes a provision where workers would take a pay cut of $3 per hour if they voluntarily change jobs-an incentive to encourage workers to stay in their jobs longer, rather than bid on new jobs, Mr. Knoch said.
``Basically, from where the company started back in May, it's just much, much better,'' Mr. Knoch said of the final agreement.
Dunlop officials said the contract addresses such needs as attendance policies, overtime administration, a revised wage structure, updated language for incentive pay and assistance in funding pensions and insurance.
``This settlement will provide the framework necessary to make Huntsville a more competitive manufacturing facility and also provide our employees with competitive wages and benefits,'' said Patrick Logue, vice president of marketing.
Prior to the latest vote, Dunlop had sent a letter to union members, warning that the Huntsville plant could be closed if the agreement were not approved.
A spokesman for Local 1023 in Salem said workers rejected the proposed contract because they didn't like clauses that called for working four consecutive, 12-hour shifts without receiving overtime and for doing away with certain seniority rights.
Yokohama officials couldn't be reached for comment.
About 1,000 workers at two Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp. plants and 4,200 at five Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. locations remain on strike after more than two months with little hope of settlement. The URW and Pirelli Armstrong met Sept. 22-23 in Las Vegas but made no progress.
The company said it needs a contract to ``reflect its specific needs,'' while the URW wants it to accept the pattern. Pirelli Armstrong said it has hired more than 200 replacement workers at each of its plants and will continue hiring more.
BFS recently hired an agency to help it hire temporary workers at its Des Moines, Iowa, plant, but will also continue to hire permanent workers, a company spokesman said. The firm's goal is to have its three striking tire plants to 50 percent of capacity by the end of October.
Separately, the U.S. district court in Des Moines rejected Pirelli Armstrong's motion to unilaterally eliminate health care benefits for current and future retirees.
Rather than hear Pirelli Armstrong's motion in Des Moines, the federal court moved the venue to Nashville, Tenn., where the union is trying a similar case.
The Italian-owned firm announced plans in July to eliminate health care coverage for 2,100 current retirees as well as future retirees, effective Oct. 15-a move it said would save $30 million annually.
Dave Hanna, vice president of Local 703, at Pirelli Armstrong's Hanford, Calif., plant said the news to dismiss the tire maker's motion was a victory since the union stands a better chance of winning the case in Nashville.
A Pirelli Armstrong spokesman, however, saw the court's decision as a move to save taxpayers' money rather than a company loss. ``(The decision) doesn't affect any of our current plans,'' he said.