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Strike deadline looms as talks continue



Published: Thu, October 5, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The two sides disagree over Goodyear's attempt to close two plants.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The 24-hour countdown began toward a possible Thursday strike or lockout involving more than 12,000 Goodyear Tire & amp; Rubber Co. employees in 10 states as the tire maker looks to close one or more plants to trim costs.

Talks were under way in Cincinnati between the Akron-based tire maker and the United Steelworkers union. The company said the talks would affect 12,600 workers at 12 plants. The union put the head count at 14,000.

The union, which said it was determined to avoid plant shutdowns, said it would terminate a day-to-day contract with Goodyear at midday Thursday if an agreement wasn't reached. The old three-year contract expired July 22.

"We're preparing for a number of scenarios and a strike is one of them," said Wayne Ranick, a spokesman for the Steelworkers.

The company said earlier that other options are an extension of the old contract or continuing work without a contract. Goodyear said it had contingency plans to keep its plants operating.

A message seeking comment was left at company offices. The company said Monday it wouldn't comment until there was a contract agreement or the 72-hour notification period ended.

Plans to close plants

The key sticking point apparently was the company's desire to close plants in Tyler, Texas, and Gadsden, Ala., union representatives in both cities said.

"If I had to describe things in one word, it would be intense, but if I had to describe it in two words, it would be very intense," said Harold Sweat, a union official in Tyler. "We are ready for something to happen."

Bren Riley, vice president of Steelworkers Local 12 in Gadsden, said Gadsden and Tyler were left off the protected list in the company's latest proposal.

Willis Hicks, spokesman for Steelworkers Local 878L at the Union City, Tenn., plant, said workers would strike and pickets would go up if an agreement wasn't reached by the deadline.

"We want to receive a fair and equitable contract," Hicks said. "Right now they haven't made enough movement in the right direction. We would not wish to strike but we might have to."

Saul Ludwig, a KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst, said a strike could cost Goodyear 2 million a day. The company could save 50 million a year by closing a U.S. plant, he said in a report to clients.

The union also represents Goodyear employees at plants in Akron, Marysville and St. Marys, Ohio; Lincoln, Neb.; Topeka, Kan.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Danville, Va.; Sun Prairie, Wis.; and Fayetteville, N.C.




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