BRYAN, Ohio—Rubber workers face battles on two fronts over concessions being sought by tire manufacturers. Continental General Tire (CGT) Inc. wants about 300 hourly workers at its Bryan, Ohio, off-the-road tire plant to accept work rule and contract language changes as well as freeze their future cost-of-living allowances, according to a local union official there.
Meanwhile, Yokohama Tire Corp. wants to reopen its labor contract with 875 workers to implement concessions at its only U.S. tire plant, in Salem, Va.
In Bryan, Bruce Mosier, pres-ident of United Steelworkers of America Local 890, said CGT—owned by Germany's Conti-nental AG—also wants to hire outside contractors to do utility work.
While declining to discuss the specifics of Mr. Mosier's claims, Michael Polovick, Conti General director of human resources, said CGT's plans in Bryan hinge on its success in addressing competitive issues stemming from actions at Titan Tire Corp., Michelin North America Inc. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.
After a 10-month labor dispute with its union workers, Titan won several concessions in April 1995, including:
hourly wage cuts;
a pension plan freeze;
the omission of two ``floating'' paid holidays and guaranteed full work weeks;
the withdrawal of company-provided sickness and accident insurance coverage; and
the elimination of health benefits for future retirees.
Soon, the Bryan plant will have to compete with non-union OTR plants under construction for Michelin and Titan.
``We are entering bargaining with a problem-solving approach, where we explore all avenues to address these issues,'' Mr. Polovick said. ``... To bury our heads in the sand and pretend all is well would be irresponsible to the work force, the company and the customer.''
He said CGT is ``optimistic'' it can address the issues without being placed in a ``lose-lose position experienced by many in the industry today.''
On Nov. 7, CGT announced it plans to lay off 650 in Mayfield, Ky., after about 1,100 workers there almost unanimously refused to consider mid-contract concessions. It plans to shift much of that plant's business and machinery to other facilities in North America.
By the end of 1997, the Kentucky factory will employ 350—down from 1,500 a few years ago—and will operate at about 20-percent capacity, according to the USWA.
``The company told us the (Bryan) plant made $4.5 million last year, but now they're saying they need concessions to be competitive,'' the union's Mr. Mosier said. ``Our workers have made it perfectly clear they're not willing to accept any concessions.''
At Japanese-owned Yokoha-ma, laborers in its Salem plant are being asked to accept work rule changes and consider freezing their future cost-of-living allowances, according to John Sellers, executive vice president of the United Steelworker's Rubber/Plastics Industry Conference.
The two parties' current three-year labor pact expires July 23. Yokohama Tire officials met with workers in mid-October, informing them the firm must explore changes necessary for the operation's survival, Mr. Sellers said.
Dan Hunter, Yokohama Tire vice president of marketing, said ``part of the meeting was to discuss ways in which we could all become more competitive—but this is nothing new.''
``This company needs to be more profitable,'' he said. ``We've made a direct approach to all of our employees, asking for their input.''
Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. has made turning around its U.S. subsidiary a top priority, according to its 1996 annual report. Yokohama Tire's Tokyo-based parent firm hopes the money-losing Salem operation will break even by 1998.