No news is some news when it comes to any contract talks between a company and its chief labor union.
So the fact there is nothing concrete to report about the face-to-face talks between Goodyear and the USW for a new master contract can be seen as a big deal.
The two parties began face-to-face negotiations in Cincinnati on June 4 for a new multi-year contract to replace the current pact that expires July 27.
At stake is a new deal that will keep production rolling at six Goodyear U.S. plants: Akron (racing tires); Buffalo (consumer, truck and motorcycle tires);
Danville, Va. (truck and aviation tires); Fayetteville, N.C. (consumer tires);
Gadsden, Ala. (consumer tires); and Topeka, Kan. (truck and OTR tires).
The current deal was reached in 2009.
Publicly, the USW said all is well and moving along. Goodyear isn’t making any public statements except through a special website it has established for the contract talks at goodyearnegotiations.com.
On the site, Goodyear said, "Talks will continue to focus on pension, wages, benefits and other issues important to both parties."
On the website, Goodyear outlined what it sees as the “key issues” to be addressed:
“Like many American manufacturing companies whose products must compete in a global market, cost is a significant challenge for Goodyear,” the tiremaker stated. ”Goodyear’s goal in negotiations is to achieve a contract that improves its competitive position by addressing issues related to productivity and flexibility improvements in its factories, as well as pension and health care benefits costs.
“Pensions: Like most U.S. manufacturers, Goodyear has transitioned much of its U.S. workforce to defined contribution plans over the past several years. Effective Jan. 1, 2005, Goodyear’s salaried pension plan was closed to new hires, and frozen effective Dec. 31, 2008. Salaried associates were transitioned to a defined contribution plan. After the 2006 Master Contract, only hourly technical/maintenance new hires were placed into the hourly pension plans. After the 2009 Master Contract, the hourly pension plans were closed to all new hires.
“As with salaried associates, hourly new hires now participate in a defined contribution plan. While the hourly defined benefit plans for pre-2007 USW workers have not been frozen, Goodyear has experienced periods of declines in interest rates and pension asset values, resulting in significant underfunding.
“Productivity: Goodyear’s goal for its North American manufacturing operations is to be competitive within North America and with the rest of the world. The company has invested in its plants with more modern equipment to produce its innovative products more efficiently. A workforce that’s committed to the same goal is critical to the company’s long-term success.
“Flexibility: Goodyear manufactures tires in North America for its North American customers. In a rapidly changing economic environment, Goodyear’s facilities must have workers in the right place, at the right time, producing the right products at the right cost.
“Benefits: Goodyear offers a comprehensive benefit package for its U.S. hourly and salaried employees. Bargaining unit employees are eligible for medical benefits and participation in the 401(k) plan after 90 days of employment. Goodyear, like many U.S. employers, continues to face double-digit inflation for its medical benefits costs annually,” the tiremaker concluded.