Union, Cooper Tire still at odds over US contract, lockout

07 December 2011 19:04  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A lock-out of some 1,050 union members from Cooper Tire’s Findlay plant in Ohio reached its ninth day on Wednesday, one day after the union complained to the US government about unfair labour practices.

Neither United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 207L president Rodney Nelson nor Cooper media relations representative Michelle Zeisloft returned calls or responded to emails on Wednesday about negotiations to end the lockout, which is in its ninth day.

On Tuesday, the USW and the local union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Cooper Tire alleging the company committed unfair labour practices in bargaining and imposing a lockout at the facility.

The USW claims Cooper demanded that bargaining unit members ratify a contract that was absent the full details of an incentive plan that could possibly result in major wage cuts.

Cooper, the union claims, insisted that its incomplete proposal would have to be accepted, ratified and implemented before necessary studies would be finalised.

The lockout was initiated on 29 November after the contract expired and it appeared a new deal could not be reached.

Cooper’s website said it made repeated attempts to extend the expired contract or reach an agreement on a new contract, but failed to settle the contract.

A 2 December update by Cooper said, “Despite multiple attempts this week to extend the recently expired contract with the United Steelworkers Local 207L, the union leadership continued to decline an extension.”

Union voters denied the proposal from Cooper by 2:1, Ron Rettig, vice president of the local union, said on 6 December.

“There’s nothing that going to end it. They brought scabs in to do union members’ work,” Rettig said.

Negotiations began almost three months ago, according to Cooper Tire. In the lockout announcement from Cooper, it said the tire company made it clear to the USW that a competitive, cost-effective and timely agreement needed to be reached to avoid a risk to Cooper and its customers of simultaneous work stoppages in Findlay and Cooper’s Texarkana, Arkansas manufacturing facility.

The Texarkana facility has about 1,400 union workers whose contract expires 17 January.

Cooper’s announcement said it presented a last, best and final proposal for a new long-term contract and an offer to extend the recently expired contract for an additional year with no change in terms. The company said the union would not extend the contract more than 30 days, which would have placed the labour agreements at two of Cooper’s major US facilities even closer together.

The USW said it offered to work through negotiations until a contract could be ratified.

Cooper is scheduled for a plant shutdown 26 December through 31 December at the Findlay facility.

Cooper Tires makes tyres for many applications. Tyres are comprised of styrene butadiene rubber (SBR).

One SBR source said that it appeared that Cooper was not too concerned with future tyre production as it was not anxious to agree to a new contract, which points to the liklihood that Cooper has an abundant amount of tyres in inventory.

December is typically a slow month for tyre manufacturers.

For more on SBR visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: Wesley Busch
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