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Union Counters, Goodyear and USW Remain Far Apart

(Akron/Tire Review) As promised, the United Steelworkers offered its counter to a master contract proposal laid out by Goodyear last week.

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The counterproposal was issued late on Sept. 15, and industry observers note that they were considerably different than the tiremaker’s offer, leading to concern that the two sides remain far, far apart.

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Goodyear said last week that it would not complete a deal with the union until the USW ratified a new contract with Bridgestone/Firestone. However, that position did not stop the tiremaker from issuing a new proposal to the union.

The union’s plan calls for protected status for all Goodyear plants, wage and benefit increases, and protection of retiree benefits, while Goodyear offered protected status to all but two of its plants, cuts overall employment by 10%, and seeks cuts in wages, benefits and retiree benefits.

The USW’s Goodyear bargaining committee presented a proposal that calls for (in the union’s words) continuing COLA; eliminating the 70% new hire progression rate and returning to pre-1997 hire in rate and progression; enhancing the hourly employee profit sharing program; paying out to the hourly employee group bonuses equal to that paid to the upper management; maintaining supplemental workers compensation; recovering the 2003 two-year pension freeze; increasing the pension multiplier and the existing formula; increasing accident and sickness benefits; increasing basic life insurance coverage; maintaining Medicare Part B reimbursement for retirees; upgrading medical benefits for actives and retirees; keeping contingent workers out of plants; securing meaningful capital investment guarantees for USW plants; enhancing the existing employee 401K and adding a 401K Roth program; keeping plant protection guarantees for all union plants; improving hourly employee staffing level guarantees; and strengthening outside contracting protection.

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Goodyear offer package, presented last week, included plant protection for all but two Goodyear master plants, including guarantees of no layoffs below a fixed number at protected facilities; a new wage grade system; pay increases for approximately 31% of the workforce (as of July 2009); pay protection for current workers through July 2009 unless they move to a lower job grade; continuation of COLA distributed as a percentage based on pay rates; revised piece work incentives; an “exit incentive” for up to 10% of the active plant personnel; pension increases with length of service; life insurance improvements for active employees; plant investment guarantees; a plan to protect competitive retiree medical benefits into the future; reduced vacations for new hires; and “active health care changes.”

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