AKRON-Goodyear plans to lay off up to 1,400 salaried and hourly employees at five U.S. tire manufacturing plants, the company announced Oct. 9.
The Akron tire maker is making the moves to deal with the industry's current downturn and ``continued economic uncertainty'' in the marketplace, a Goodyear spokesman said.
The projected layoffs include:
* 475 workers at Goodyear's Kelly-Springfield facility in Fayetteville, N.C.;
* 275 in Danville, Va.;
* 250 at the Goodyear Dunlop plant in Huntsville, Ala.;
* 225 in Gadsden, Ala.; and
* 175 at the Kelly factory in Tyler, Texas.
About 90 percent of the layoffs will be hourly positions, the spokesman said. The production cutbacks include a shift to five- and six-day weekly schedules rather than continuous seven-day operations, the firm said.
All of the firm's tire plants except for the Freeport, Ill., farm and industrial tire plant regularly operate continuously, the spokesman said.
Goodyear had made production cutbacks during 2001's second and third quarters at Danville, Freeport, Gadsden, Lawton, Okla., and Napanee, Ontario. At that time, the company had taken full days or weeks out of production-with a few layoffs at selected locations-but doing that isn't efficient in the long term, the spokesman said.
The firm's cutbacks were offset somewhat by Goodyear's role in the Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. tire recalls that began last summer, but not enough to overcome reduced market demand in a weak U.S. automotive market.
Now, Goodyear needs to switch to a flexible schedule to respond quickly to market changes, the spokesman said.
``We see these schedule changes remaining in effect as long as the marketplace remains unpredictable,'' John Loulan, vice president of manufacturing for Goodyear North American Tire, said in a prepared statement. ``Experience has taught us that in a volatile market the key to responding is remaining as flexible as possible.''
Goodyear has been looking to downsize and cut costs the past couple years. In 2000, the firm sliced 3,500 positions. In February, the company announced 7,200 global job cuts-500 in North America-to be enacted by year's end.
A month before, Goodyear said it would offer early retirement to about 700 U.S. white-collar employees. The company currently employs about 100,000 globally.
Some of the firm's competitors have been in the same boat. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. announced about 1,100 job cuts nearly a year ago. Michelin North America Inc. said in September it will slice operating costs during the next two years by reducing its work force by 2,000.
Mickey Williams, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 12 in Gadsden, said the Goodyear layoffs weren't a surprise, given the state of the economy. But he and his members had hoped taking days out of production would help prevent any cuts like these.
The USWA will discuss the layoffs with Goodyear officials at interim contract meetings scheduled for this month, a union spokesman said. The Gadsden plant employs 1,412, with about 1,280 of them unionized production workers, Mr. Williams said.
The depressed economy also has hurt the firm's financial outlook. On Sept. 26, Goodyear said it expected net income for the third quarter to be 5 cents per diluted share, compared with 11 cents per share in the year-earlier period. About a week later, Goodyear cut its dividend for the third quarter to 12 cents per share, down 60 percent from the previous 30 cents per share. Goodyear will release its third-quarter financial report Oct. 25.
The firm posted a net loss of $38.9 million through the first six months of 2001 on sales of nearly $7 billion. The second quarter, however, was an improvement on the first, as Goodyear reported net income of $7.8 million on sales of $3.58 billion.