Goodyear Strike Ends

Deal delays Texas plant closing.

The union representing 14,000 striking workers at U.S. Goodyear plants announced Friday that members had ratified a new contract and ended an 86 day-long strike.

Workers with the United Steelworkers went on strike Oct. 5 against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. to protest planned plant closures and seek increased benefits and job security guarantees. The union reached a tentative three-year contract agreement with the Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear on Dec. 22, and workers ratified it late Dec. 28, the union announced.

The three-year contract sets up a company-financed trust of more than $1 billion "that will secure medical and prescription drug benefits for current and future retirees," the union said in a statement. The contract also requires Goodyear to postpone plans for closing its tire plant in Tyler, Texas, for one year and gives workers time to leave gradually or take a retirement buyout.

"It's a bittersweet outcome," said union contract coordinator Kevin Johnsen. "We wanted to win Tyler protected status like the other plants, but we only got it for 2007."

Some 1,100 workers are employed at the Tyler plant, which produces about 25,000 tires for passenger cars and light trucks a day. Goodyear said the small-diameter passenger tires made at Tyler faced stiff competition from low-cost imports. The world's biggest tire maker is trying to reduce costs by more than $1 billion by 2008.

Goodyear said in a statement that it expected the contract would result in "substantial cost savings."

"The end result is Goodyear will be a stronger company, a stronger employer and a stronger overall global competitor," said Goodyear Chairman and CEO Robert Keegan.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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