UNION CITY, Tenn. (Dec. 2, 2002) — Goodyear will lay off 460 employees at its Union City passenger and light truck tire plant and cut out weekend work starting in January, as the company strives to cut its operating costs and increase its competitiveness.
The latest layoffs, affecting both salaried and hourly employees, take effect Jan. 20 and are the second major job cut action in three months. The moves are part of a production cutback at the factory, which will shift to a traditional schedule—five days, three eight-hour shifts per day—in January, a Goodyear spokesman in Akron said. Union City has been on a continuous schedule since 1998, turning out 60,000 units a day.
About 410 of the workers are bargaining unit employees, with the remainder salaried, said Willis Hicks, recording secretary of United Steelworkers of America Local 878. The numbers could change, as some union members may be interested in taking voluntary retirement during the interim period, he said.
These layoffs will come on top of a previous round that went into effect Oct. 1, when between 400 and 500 salaried and hourly employees lost their jobs indefinitely.
"These layoffs are a tragic event," Mr. Hicks said. "It won't be much of a Christmas for a lot of people."
About 3,800 employees—with roughly 3,300 hourly and 500 salaried—worked in Union City before the first layoff announcement. Workers will be brought back based on market demand, a Union City-based Goodyear spokesman said.
The company wants to see an improvement in supplying tires competitively and efficiently at the 34-year-old plant, which has been a high-cost operation, the Union City spokesman said. Markets the facility serves always are highly competitive in price and share, and Goodyear's current financial condition and that of the tire industry hasn't helped.
The Union City plant's high cost structure also takes it out of the running for any further major investments, the Akron spokesman said.
Concerns about the costs and future of the Union City factory and its work force prompted a Nov. 25 meeting between Local 878 representatives and Goodyear management, including John Loulan, the company's vice president of operations, manufacturing and supply chain.
Mr. Hicks said a committee was formed to suggest ways to handle high costs and make the factory more competitive. Mr. Loulan will return to Union City Dec. 13 to discuss and review the committee's progress, Mr. Hicks said.
Goodyear plants in Topeka, Kan., and Lawton/Fort Sill, Okla., received green lights for expansion projects earlier this year. Lawton, a 24-year-old non-union facility, is considered the company's flagship passenger tire operation, the Akron spokesman said. The USWA local staffing the Topeka truck, farm and OTR tire facility approved schedule changes and wage deferrals to help make the site "more attractive" for investment.
"We're always looking for a place to maximize return on investments," the Akron spokesman said. "Right now it's not in Union City."