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Goodyear says contract offer includes no wage cuts

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Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which has previously refused to release details about its contract offers to striking workers, said on Tuesday that its latest proposal would not cut wages as union workers have claimed and would close only one plant.

Jim Allen, Goodyear's director of global labour relations, said in a statement on the company's labour negotiations website that he wanted to correct misinformation about the status of negotiations with the United Steelworkers.

He said Goodyear's latest proposal would maintain medical benefits with a US$2 per week increase in premiums for single associates and $6 to $9 per week for families.

The proposal included an increase in capital investments for plants and would propose job security provisions at all major U.S. plants except its factory in Tyler, Texas.

Union members have said Goodyear's final contract offer included pay and benefit cuts for current employees and retirees and threatened to close plants in Tyler and Gadsden, Ala.

Tuesday's statement from Goodyear came a day after the company said it was closing the Tyler plant and eliminating 1,100 jobs. The plant's fate had been a key difference in negotiations that have been stalled since more than 12,000 workers in the United States and Canada went on strike Oct. 5.

``The starting point to a new agreement is no plant closings,'' said Tom Conway, USW vice-president and chairman of the Goodyear negotiating team.

Goodyear's proposal also includes an offer to set up an independent trust fund for current and future retirees that would secure benefits.

``The devil is in the details and the company is very deft in positioning its offer in the best light,'' Conway said. ``For example, the retiree medical proposal is so grossly underfunded that our members in the plants would have no coverage in the future.''

Goodyear said this week that it is hiring an unspecified number of temporary workers at 12 plants affected by the three-week-old strike, including the Tyler plant. That move has been criticized by the union, which says hiring temporary employees to make tires raises concerns about safety and tire quality.

Goodyear executives throughout the strike have said they want the union to help the company be competitive in a global economy. The union says it already accepted pay cuts, job losses and other concessions in 2003 to help get the company back on track financially.

The company employs about 80,000 people in 28 countries.

Goodyear shares rose 15 cents to close at $15.33 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has traded between $9.75 and $19.31 over the past year.

___

On the Net:

Goodyear: www.goodyearnegotiations.com

Union: www.gkdsolidarityexpress.org

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Goodyear says contract offer includes no wage cuts
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