Michelin avoids strike as union deadline comes and goes

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The deadline to negotiate a new labor contract, imposed by the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) on Michelin North America Inc., came and went with both parties remaining at the table.

"Although a strike deadline was set for 12:01 a.m. (CST) on August 12th, company and union negotiators remain in discussions," says a Michelin spokesman. "Productive talks continue toward achieving a new agreement, and workers at the three U.S. BFGoodrich Tire Manufacturing facilities remain on the job."

Michelin says its goal remains to make the plants "more competitive and to improve their long-term viability."

More than 3,400 union employees work for BFGoodrich Tire Manufacturing, an operating division of Michelin North America. Last year, local union members voted to give union leadership the right to call a strike if negotiations hit an impasse.

The union members-to-total employees breakdown at each BFGoodrich facility is as follows:

1. Opelika, Ala.: 1,168 union employees, 1,376 total employees (84.9%).

2. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: 1,111 union employees, 1,270 total employees (87.5%).

3. Fort Wayne, Ind.: 1,132 union employees, 1,308 total employees (86.5%).

Progress in contract talks hit a snag in July. USWA representatives made a proposal based on the union´s 10-month-old contract with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which USWA members voted to be its "pattern agreement" for talks with other tiremakers.

Union officials said that Michelin then presented its "Company Offer of Settlement," which called for elimination of retiree medical benefits for employees hired in the future, reduced vacation time, and other concessions.

The three Michelin tire plants involved in the negotiations have a combined manufacturing capacity of 75,000 passenger and light truck tires per day, according to Modern Tire Dealer´s 2004 Facts Issue.

Michelin is engaged in separate negotiations with the USWA regarding its Kitchener, Ontario, plant, where workers have been picketing since June 1.

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