ERJ staff report (TB)
By William Schertz, Tire Business staff
Findlay, Ohio - The saying goes that there are always two sides to a story, and in the case of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s ongoing contract negotiations with its locked-out unionized Findlay workers it seems to be true.
The most recent battle between the two parties is focused on whether or not another face-off had ever been scheduled. According to a United Steelworkers (USW) Local 207L representative, Cooper had cancelled a bargaining session scheduled for Jan. 12 without providing a reason for the cancellation.
A Cooper spokeswoman, however, told Tire Business no such session had ever been scheduled. She claimed that Cooper made an offer for workers at the Findlay plant-who have been locked out since Nov. 28-to return to work after Christmas by way of a contact extension, but the offer went unanswered.
Separately, discussions between Cooper and the USW Local 752L representing workers at the tyre maker's Texarkana, Ark., plant, where the current labor contract expires Jan. 20, are ongoing. Union representatives could not be reached for comment on the progress of these negotiations by Tire Business' press time.
The Findlay workers have gained support from many directions, including Milorad Panovic, president of Nezavisnost, the union representing workers at a tyre plant in Krusevac, Serbia, that Cooper has made plans to purchase. In letter sent to Cooper last month, Mr. Panovic asked the company to put an end to the lockout at its Findlay plant and support its workers there.
A delegation of locked-out Findlay employees and an international union representative met last week with union leaders at the radial car and light truck tyre plant, which Cooper offered in December to buy for approximately $17.4 million. The plant was previously operated by Serbia's Trayal Corp.
Cooper said it expects the deal for the plant with Serbian authorities to close in the first quarter, subject to regulatory approvals, confirmatory due diligence and other conditions.
USW International President Leo Gerard said international solidarity among union members is especially important in the case of disputes with multinational employers, as a direct link for sharing information can help workers from different areas of the globe.
â€œThe only answer to global corporate greed is global union solidarity,â€ he said. â€œCooper Tire management needs to understand our commitment to justice here.â€
As for the Serbian plant, Cooper plans to invest about $67 million in the 35-year-old plant to upgrade it and expand annual capacity to 3 million units within three years. Employment there will grow to 600-700 workers from 400.
The operation, to be renamed Cooper Tire Serbia, will complement Cooper's factory in Melksham, England. Cooper called it a â€œlogical next step in the high quality, cost-effective manufacturing footprint underpinning Cooper's strategy of profitable top-line growth.â€
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6148.
From Tire Business (A Crain publication)