United Steelworkers approve BF Goodrich contract that promises no layoffs, plant closures


Friday, August 27th 2004, 10:20 am
By: News On 6


PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Union workers at four older BF Goodrich tire plants approved contract concessions that will cut labor costs at the plants about 20 percent.

The United Steelworkers of America on Friday said 70 percent of the 3,400 union workers at tire plants in Woodburn, Ind., and Tuscaloosa and Opelika, Ala., approved a pact that runs through July 2006.

About 1,000 union workers at a plant in Kitchener, Ontario, had voted in favor of similar deal Monday.

Officials at BF Goodrich's French parent company, Michelin, didn't offer specific details, but said its employees agreed to various health care, pay and staffing concessions worth $300 million a year. It estimated the agreement would cut labor costs by 20 percent at the four plants.

The company said it agreed to a ``modest'' pension increase to keep pace with inflation and to pay $20 million to help about 9,000 U.S. retirees pay for increased health costs.

The cost cuts were ``absolutely critical to the long-term viability of these plants and giving Michelin the flexibility it needs to adapt to fluctuating market demands,'' Michelin said in a statement.

The contract also allows for more temporary labor and rollbacks of cost-of-living increases for the U.S. workers, Michelin said.

The union stressed the deal guarantees there will be no layoffs or plant closures for the length of the contract; limits outsourcing of maintenance and other mechanical work; and calls for BF Goodrich to invest at least $150 million to improve the plants.

The union said it would post details on its Web site later Friday. Its officials didn't immediately return calls for comment Friday morning.