TONAWANDA, N.Y. — Sumitomo Rubber USA L.L.C. is planning to idle production at its Tonawanda tire plant for approximately two weeks starting April 20, according to a letter to factory employees posted by United Steelworkers Local 135, which represents workers there.
In the letter, Sumitomo Rubber management states the company is taking this action because it "strongly believes this temporary closure is both the responsible course of action and the right thing to do" due to the impact COVID-19 is having.
The move affects roughly 1,300 hourly employees at the car, truck and motorcycle tire factory in the Buffalo suburb.
The plant is scheduled to resume work on May 4, but Sumitomo said it "will evaluate if a third week of closure is necessary, as determined by where we are as a community couple with our requirements as an 'essential business' within the transportation infrastructure."
Hourly workers will receive supplemental unemployment benefits during the closure; salaried employees will work from home provided their work allows them to do so, the letter goes on to say.
Sumitomo management told USW Local 135 in a Q&A response that there have been no positive COVID-19 cases among the staff and said the company would undertake a "long-term deep cleaning" of the factory before it reopens.
Sumitomo has operated the Tonawanda factory since 2015 when Goodyear and Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. dissolved their 16-year-old business alliance.
The plant was opened originally in 1923 by Dunlop Tyre Ltd. Prior to the formation of the Goodyear-SRI alliance n 1999, the plant was operated by Dunlop Tire Corp.