Contract talks between Titan International Inc. and workers at its three U.S. tire plants begin this fall, and the players are confident the company's recent financial success will lead to productive negotiations.
Separate pacts between the tire maker and the hourly work forces represented by the United Steelworkers (USW) at Titan's farm and OTR tire plants in Des Moines, Iowa; Freeport, Ill.; and Bryan, Ohio, expire Nov. 19.
Leaders of the USW locals staffing the Titan plants said they were scheduled to meet at the end of August to discuss contract issues, with formal negotiations likely to start in September or October. Kevin Kirk, president of USW Local 745 in Freeport, said there are many issues to addressjob security, health care, wages and benefits among thembut none at this point is bigger than another.
Our goal is to win a fair contract, he said.
Mr. Kirk also said Titan's performance so far in 2010 is a great sign entering the bargaining stage. The economy picking up is a good thing for everyone.
The Quincy-based tire and wheel maker posted sales of $229.7 million in the second quarterup 11 percentbut net earnings fell 22 percent to $4.6 million. For the first half, sales slipped 3.6 percent to $426.1 million and net profits were halved to $6.6 million.
Company sales for 2009 were $727.6 million, down from $1.04 billion in its record 2008 year, with a net loss of $24.6 million.
The Titan contracts affect about 1,400 hourly workers at the three sites. Local 745 in Freeport represents about 500plus 80-90 on layoff, Mr. Kirk said; the Des Moines factory has 465-470 production workers; and the Bryan operation has 238 in plant with about 120 on layoff, said John Bowling, unit chairman of USW Local 890.
Mike Mathis, president of Local 164 in Des Moines, said that the good results have been encouraging. There were some short lulls in production during the recent downturn and some layoffs, but generally the plant has been very busy and the laid-off workers were brought back relatively quickly, he said.
The Des Moines factory, traditionally an agricultural tire facility, also makes all-terrain vehicle, lawn and garden, and some large-size OTR tires, Mr. Mathis said.
Maurice Morry Taylor Jr., Titan CEO and chairman, said the company's factories are running well, and the improved numbers speak for themselves. He expects the third quarter to be better than last year, and he believes the farm side of the businessboth tires and wheelswill continue to build during the period.
Revenues in Titan's ag segment reached $175.7 million in the second quarter, up 9.6 percent from the like period a year earlier and comprising more than three-quarters of the company's total sales.
The company's recent purchase of some of bankrupt Denman Tire Corp.'s assetsabout $7.4 million for the Denman name, tire specifications, patents, molds and equipmentwill add more capabilities to Titan's resources, Mr. Taylor said.
He plans to announce soon how Titan will integrate the Denman brand into his company's production in the coming weeks, noting, We're laying the groundwork for the future. We've got new products being accepted and more coming.
Mr. Taylor said he's looking forward to the upcoming USW talks and knows there is always going to be give-and-take. Our employees aren't fools. They know we pay very good wages and we've been able to create jobs at our plants.
I've had my disagreements with the Steelworkers, but they know that I don't get muscled. I'm fair, but I'm not stupid.
This report appeared in Rubber & Plastics News, a sister publication of Tire Business.