Continental, USW at odds over latest negotiations

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Continental Tire North America Inc. (CTNA) calls the latest news release from the United Steelworkers (USW) “false and misleading and not remotely reflecting what went on at the meeting.”

In a news release issued yesterday by the USW, the union blasted CTNA for “unexpectedly announcing that it may alter benefits for its retirees” during the latest contract negotiation talks concerning production at the company’s Charlotte, N.C., plant.

It said the “company asserted it has the right to alter retiree benefits in any way it chooses as soon as the insurance agreement expires.”

“CTNA also asserted,” reported the union, “that it could reach back and collect past insurance costs from retirees for some benefits paid for during the term of the current agreement. The labor agreement expires on April 30, 2006. Benefits under the insurance agreement continue for another 90 days.”

“These benefits were bought and paid for by retirees during their years of faithful service at Continental,” said USW Executive Vice President Ron Hoover. “We will not stand for this and will fight it, in court if necessary."

According to Rick Holcomb, CTNA’s senior counsel, “It is apparent that the USW is focused on national negotiations (concerning upcoming contract negotiations with other major tire manufacturers) and that they are not concentrating on saving jobs at Charlotte.”

Holcomb said the company is looking at all aspects to reduce costs, including medical, but has agreed to withdraw retiree medical cuts as part of its latest proposal. “We will have no choice but to consider deeper cuts from active employees to achieve $32 million in cost reductions.

“Negotiations are ongoing,” Holcomb stated. “We’ll continue to work through collective bargaining to achieve cost reductions. It is unfortunate that the union is releasing misleading and false information designed to confuse retirees and active workers.”

The union reports it has 1,400 members working at CTNA's Charlotte plant.

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