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Goodyear and USW set up labor negotiation-related Web sites

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The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has set up a Web site, www.goodyearnegotiations.com, to help keep its United Steelworker (USW) associates updated on the company's contract proposal to the USW.

Those associates are some 15,000 USW workers at 16 Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plants who have been on strike since Oct. 5.

(In North America, the plants affected are in Akron, Ohio; Buffalo, N.Y.; Danville, Va.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Gadsden, Ala.; Topeka, Kan.; Tyler, Texas (which Goodyear recently announced plans to close); and Union City, Tenn. Engineered Products plants on strike are in Lincoln, Neb.; Marysville, Ohio; St. Marys, Ohio; and Sun Prairie, Wis. In Canada, affected plants are in Collingwood, Ontario; Owen Sound, Ontario; and the Toronto Logistics Center and Toronto Commercial/Retread facility.)

On Oct. 31, Jim Allen, Goodyear's director, global labor relations, wrote, "Since the United Steelworkers’ strike against Goodyear began on Oct. 5, there has been a lot said and written about the negotiation and reasons for the work stoppage. Some of it has been true, some not true. I owe it to you to correct misinformation and ensure that you and your families know the facts about the negotiations.

"Despite what you may have heard, we have been actively trying to construct an agreement that would allow Goodyear to be competitive and is fair to our associates. As is the case in all negotiations, both sides must make compromises to reach an agreement.

"With that background, let’s separate fact from fiction in those areas that may be of the most importance and interest to you."

He then listed information about Goodyear’s latest proposals for current employees.

Today, the USW responded to Allen's letter on its www.gkdsolidarityexpress.com Web site.

The USW worte: "Jim Allen's posting the other day on the company Web site would make the naïve believe that there are no valid reasons for 15,000 USW members at 16 plants across North America to be on strike.

"Your Policy Committee reminds everybody that it was the company's unreasonable demands and unwillingness to come up with a fair and equitable offer that forced us out onto the streets."

Presented here in a point/counterpoint manner are the two messages from the Web sites.

Goodyear on wages: No Goodyear associate will be asked to take a cut in his or her wage rate.

USW's response: Goodyear says no one loses money. Here’s the real story: In our plants hundreds of our members and co-workers find themselves unable after years of hard work to continue on their jobs due to the current physical challenges. The company wants them to lose as much as 40% of their standard of living if they have to leave that job.

Goodyear on pensions: We have offered to fully restore service credit to active associates for the prior two-year pension freeze. Simultaneously, we’re proposing to maintain the current pension multiple of $55 per month per year of service.

USW's response: Goodyear proposed to restore 21 months of pension with no pension increase. On the final day of bargaining in Cincinnati, in an effort to appear as if they reinstated the pension loss, they put the full 24 months restoration on the table BUT doubled your health care premiums!

Goodyear on COLA: We have offered to continue the current formula and timing of COLA increases for all current associates.

USW's response: Goodyear proposes to pay COLA as a percentage to employees rather than on a cents per hour basis as in the past. In addition, more than half of our members would receive absolutely no COLA for the life of the contract.

Goodyear on benefits: We are proposing to maintain your medical and other benefits at current or improved levels. Simultaneously, we have asked for a small increase in weekly medical premiums -– $2 per week for single associates, $6 to $9 per week for families.

USW's response: Goodyear's proposal eliminates the $410 A&S weekly benefit and instead only pays you for 18 hours per week. It also eliminates Supplemental Workers Compensation, which pays 80% pay to an employee injured at work or suffering a work related illness. In addition, the company proposal contains a new Specialty Drugs provision, which will have many members and retirees paying up to $1,000 in additional expenses each year.

Goodyear on retiree medical: We have offered to set up an independent trust fund for current and future retirees that would secure their benefits for many years into the future.

USW's response: The company talks about a plan that provides for retiree health care. This shell game is the center of their proposal. Goodyear has a longstanding obligation to their retirees which they want to dump. They propose that the union set up a trust fund and we take over their obligation. Goodyear wants to offer up about 50 cents on the dollar of what they owe and then, good luck –- we’re on our own. Our analysis shows we’d be out of money within a few years and given the rising costs of health care in America we’d always be behind the eight-ball and they’ll have washed their hands of the whole thing. If you’re a current Goodyear worker, the fund will be long gone before you even retire. So Goodyear’s plan is invest wisely, stay healthy, work longer, die sooner and pray a lot.

Goodyear on profit sharing: We have offered to increase profit sharing.

USW's response: Allen says that they're increasing profit sharing. This is an outright lie! The company proposal would worsen the existing active employee profit sharing formula- which paid nothing during the last agreement -- and would completely eliminate retiree profit sharing.

Goodyear on job security and plant protections: We are proposing to continue job security provisions and plant protections at all U.S. master plants except Tyler.

USW's response: Goodyear's job security proposal would close the Tyler, Texas, plant and provides no guarantee of any new capital investment in our plants. The company wants the right to eliminate the job guarantees for our EPD plants. In addition, Goodyear can completely eliminate the entire Plant Protection language if Bridgestone/Firestone fails to provide plant protection to its plants or ratify an agreement within six months.

Goodyear on new hire/support unit: We have proposed creating a new job category to be staffed exclusively by new union members and designed to substantially improve productivity and the overall cost of our products.

USW's response: Allen says the company wants a new hire/support unit to improve productivity and product costs. The real story is they offered to pay these people 13 bucks an hour with no healthcare, pension, seniority, vacation, S&A, time-off for funeral, jury or military leave. These employees could also be assigned to any shift or any job in the plant.

Goodyear on capital investments: We have proposed a substantial increase in capital investments for Steelworker plants.

USW's response: None reported.

Allen said, "It is important that everyone understands the issues and is informed about what is being offered. Goodyear remains ready to return to Cincinnati to continue bargaining toward a new labor agreement."

The USW said, "In addition to the issues that Allen did raise, he carefully avoided telling you about some other important ones, such as:

* Incentives: Goodyear's demand includes resetting the day work standards for all day work jobs, and eliminating all current incentive plans. They want a “clean card” system with no average

earnings protection. Allen doesn't tell you that we stand to lose a lot of money, while making a lot more tires under their plan.

* Disability Pensions: Under Goodyear’s proposal, employees must qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits to become eligible for a Disability Pension.

"As you can easily see, Jim Allen was quite crafty in spinning his recent posting on the company Web site.

"His attempts to communicate to 'all Goodyear United Steelworker associates' only created more confusion and misinformation. The bottom line is to make sure you get accurate information from your

Policy Committee and Local Union officials.

"Only through our Solidarity will we win a fair and equitable contract with Goodyear!"

"We remain willing to continue to bargain with the Steelworkers," said Allen. "In the meantime we have implemented our strike contingency plans at the affected facilities and are working to minimize impact on our customers."

No new negotiations between Goodyear and the USW have been scheduled at this time.

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