Both sides say the now-ratified master contract between Goodyear and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) is a fair agreement each can live with.
In total, 13 of 14 locals ratified the agreement, which gained approval of about 70 percent of union members casting ballots, according to the USWA. Only Local 878 at the tire plant in Union City, Tenn., rejected the contract, with 52 percent voting against ratification.
Goodyear Chairman and CEO Robert Keegan said the pact shows what can be accomplished when labor and management ``work cooperatively to address the serious problems facing U.S. manufacturers.''
The company said in a statement that the contract provides Goodyear with much-needed containment of health care, benefit and wage costs. There is no general wage increase in the deal, although cost-of-living adjustments will remain, along with a two-year freeze for pension benefit accrual, with the multiplier to rise $5 to $55 per month per year of service in 2006.
Goodyear said the firm also gains ``unprecedented opportunities'' for improved productivity and streamlining of its North American manufacturing operations as well as the ability to source products globally for competitive purposes.
For the USWA, the top gain in the contract is job security, said Ron Hoover, coordinator for the union's bargaining team. The agreement grants ``protected status'' to 12 of the 14 locations covered, with the tire plant in Huntsville, Ala., slated to close by year-end and the Tyler, Texas, tire factory granted partially protected status.
Huntsville workers, who approved the contract by an 81-percent margin, will receive enhanced severance and pension benefits where eligible and are entitled to preferential hiring at the Gadsden, Ala., factory. Goodyear will transfer production of 1 million tires per year to Gadsden from non-USWA plants and transfer all Huntsville production to USWA-represented factories.
The union said Goodyear initially planned to reduce its North American production substantially by closing a number of plants and downsizing several others. In addition, it said the firm planned to transfer that production offshore with capital investments earmarked for foreign and non-union domestic facilities, and it was seeking major wage and benefit concessions.
But the new contract restricts imports along with the company's right to transfer production.
It also gives protected plants preference in consideration of production of new products developed for sale in North America. Also, the domestic factories get preference for capital expenditures made to modernize or add to capacity for products to be sold mainly on this continent.
``That's a major accomplishment in today's economy, to protect the North American manufacturing base,'' Mr. Hoover said. ``It's those types of things that make the agreement so good, and I would have told you in the past they were unattainable.''
Mr. Hoover acknowledged the union now must do its part to help improve Goodyear's financial condition.
``Productivity was important for the long-term viability of the plants,'' he said. ``When you limit the company's ability to import and limit its ability to freely go to non-union locations, in a certain sense, the union has to step up in terms of productivity.''
By far, the pending closure in Huntsville was the biggest disappointment of the talks, Mr. Hoover said. ``I was on a personal basis committed to leave with all 14 plants operating. I didn't come off that position very easily,'' he said.
Now that the contract has been ratified, each of the 14 Goodyear locations will begin negotiations of local issues specific to each plant.
The USWA also turned its efforts to Bridgestone/Firestone and Michelin North America Inc., the other two tire makers covered by master agreements. Talks with BFS resumed Sept. 18 in St. Louis, while negotiations with Michelin for its three Uniroyal Goodrich plants covered by the master contract are scheduled to begin again the week of Oct. 6 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Talks with both had been suspended pending the outcome of the Goodyear negotiations. The USWA previously said it would present the Goodyear contract as a pattern to the other tire makers.
The union also will have to deal with negotiations at Yokohama Tire Corp.'s Salem, Va., facility-which has been working day-to-day since its contract expired July 23-and at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s Findlay, Ohio, tire factory, where the agreement expires Oct. 31.