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Union blasts Continental over lay-offs

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"Continental appears determined to service its shrinking demand in the United States and Canada with imports from low-cost countries," said the United Steelworkers in a stinging reply to Continental's decision to slash production and jobs at its Charlotte, N.C., plant.

Yesterday, Continental announced plans to lay off hundreds of hourly and salaried workers this year. The first round of cuts will take place in March; the second round will take place at the end of June.

While Steelworkers remain open to "investigating ways to maintain production in Charlotte," United Steelworkers Executive Vice President Ron Hoover says that "instead of developing a constructive dialogie with its workers and their union, and pursuing new solutions, this company keeps repeating its mistakes while demanding labor concessions.

"Unlike successful companies, Continental never developed a rational marketing strategy nor made adequate investments in product research and development."

The Steelworkers currently have about 1,000 members who work at the Charlotte plant.

Continental officials say the Charlotte plant will continue to operate after the coming lay-offs with a reduced workforce.

"Manufacturing costs in our Charlotte facility are higher than any other Continental tire plant worldwide, and we have been very clear from the start that we cannot continue in our current situation," says Dr. Alan Hippe, CEO and president of Continental Tire North America Inc. (CTNA).

"Our overall objective is to reduce significant financial losses while expanding our market position in the North American marketplace for all tire operations.

"For the last several years, we have been analyzing our North American manufacturing operations and implementing initiatives to reduce costs in all areas of our North American tire business."

According to Hippe, substantial reductions in the manufacturing costs at the Charlotte plant must be achieved in order to assure the long-term value of the Charlotte plant in CTNA's North American manufacturing operations.

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