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Strike possible as union deadline for Michelin approaches

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United Steelworkers of America (USWA) leadership has given Michelin North America Inc. until Wednesday to negotiate a new labor contract.

If the Aug. 11 deadline comes and goes without a contract, the local unions representing Michelin´s Tuscaloosa and Opelika, Ala., and Fort Wayne, Ind., consumer tire manufacturing plants may strike. (Last year, local union members voted to give union leadership the right to call a strike.)

Progress in contract talks hit a snag in July, when the parties made their most recent proposals. Both were rejected.

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 say 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.

"It is apparent that we are in for a fight," USWA officials said in the union´s Negotiation News bulletin released on July 16.

"We feel it is inappropriate to publicly discuss details while negotiations are underway," says Michelin spokesman Christian Flathman.

On the approaching deadline, Flathman had this to say:

"Having a targeted deadline for completing negotiations should help us meet our objective of reaching an agreement with the USWA. Our goal continues to be maintaining the competitiveness of our U.S. plants and improving their overall viability."

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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