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USW Says Conti Plant Plan is No Surprise

(Akron/Tire Review) Not surprisingly, the United Steelworkers (USW) claims Continental Tire North America’s (CTNA) announced plan to suspend tire production at its Charlotte, N.C., plant by mid-September “is not a surprise.”

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CTNA said last week that without an approximately 35% reduction in wage and benefit costs from workers, it will “indefinitely suspend” production at its hometown plant.

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"The news today is totally consistent with CTNA’s inability to understand and operate in this environment," said USW executive vice president Ron Hoover in a statement. "We view it as another step in CTNA’s pre-determined plan to abandon the North America market.”

Stepping up the rhetoric, Hoover said, “CTNA is incapable of devising business and marketing strategies to enable them to compete here. Instead of conducting the required research and product development and making the needed capital investments to improve its plants, this company just looks to take money out of the pockets of its workers."

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CTNA and the union, which are also in the midst of master contract talks, have been meeting since late fall in response to the tiremaker’s demand for some $32 million in annual savings at the plant. Continental insists the Charlotte plant is among its most expensive to operate, while the USW claims CTNA has not demonstrated the need for such severe cutbacks.

“It stopped production at its plant in Mayfield, Ky., about a year ago and is now actively seeking to sell its Bryan, Ohio, facility,” said Hoover. “It has extracted concessions from workers at its Mt. Vernon, Illinois plant and is spending enough money there to patch together production as it brings its new Brazilian plant up to speed.”

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The first round of layoffs, which CTNA announced in January, are set to take place Mar. 15. Another round is set for June, and now CTNA says it will shutter production completely by Sept. 15 if a deal isn’t reached. Some 1,000 hourly and salary workers could be let go if the cuts aren’t agreed to, CTNA says.

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