CINCINNATI (June 24, 2003)—The United Steelworkers of America union “will not continue” master contract negotiations with Goodyear past June 27 and is ready to strike if necessary.
The union and company—which have been in the midst of bargaining since March 13—recently targeted June 27 as the date they'd like to have a tentative pact done. But the lack of progress on the main negotiation sticking points led the USWA to put an even greater emphasis on the upcoming deadline and discuss a strike openly.
The day-to-day extension which union members have been working under since April 19 can be terminated with 72-hour notice.
The pact between Goodyear and union members at its three Kelly-Springfield tire facilities doesn't expire until July 6, meaning organized employees there will work through that date if a strike is called.
Progress has been slow in negotiations, especially since the union rejected the company's first formal proposal May 9, the USWA said. Both sides said there has been headway in some areas, but there are many issues left to resolve.
“We've made some progress on key issues, but the total package has to be there,” a Goodyear spokesman said.
The biggest point of contention between the two sides is plant and job security, a USWA spokesman said.
Union negotiators are seeking security—written “enforceable assurance”—from Goodyear potentially closing any of its organized tire and rubber plants during the next three years. The union—which represents about 20,000 workers at 14 Goodyear, Dunlop and Kelly sites—has said it won't accept a deal not addressing the issue.
Goodyear's positions on resolving differences with the union and getting a tentative pact done by June 27 haven't changed, the Goodyear spokesman said. “Our expectation is that by the deadline we'll have a satisfactory agreement for everyone involved,” he said. “Both parties want it to be over.”
The Goodyear spokesman acknowledged that talk of a deadline and a strike are “part of the negotiating process” and said Goodyear has looked at the worst-case scenario emanating from it. But the company isn't speculating on what might happen at this point, other than it expects an agreement at the end, he said.
Goodyear's recent financial troubles have made negotiations challenging for both sides. The Akron tire maker reported a net loss of $1.1 billion in 2002 and has been pestered by a sagging stock price and rising debt.
While Goodyear reportedly wants to cut capacity and secure $915 million in wage and benefits concessions over a three-year span from its union workers and retirees, the USWA has its own “survival plan” for the company based on debt restructuring and renewed investment in organized North American production facilities.
Some of the other key issues in negotiations include medical insurance and prescription drug costs, retiree health care, pension funding and neutrality. The USWA chose Goodyear as its target company for 2003 tire industry negotiations on April 7.