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10-06-06 Goodyear will try to keep plants running



Associated Press Writer

  AKRON -- Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., with 12,000 union employees on strike at 16 plants in the U.S. and Canada, will turn to managers, inventory and tires from overseas to try to keep things going.

  The United Steelworkers of America terminated a day-to-day contract extension Thursday and quickly set up picket lines. A company spokesman said talks would not resume until Saturday at the earliest.  Without giving details, Goodyear said its latest offer would protect jobs and pensions. The company said the union failed to agree to terms in contracts the union has with other tire makers, conditions the company claims are necessary for its survival.

  The union, mindful of contract concessions it made three years ago, said the company's latest proposal would have included two plant closings and other concessions.

  Goodyear will continue production at nonunion plants in Lawton, Okla., and Napanee, Ontario, and will use salaried workers at its union plants, spokesman Ed Markey said. The company also has imports and inventory to draw on, Markey said, declining to give specifics.

  ''We are working to minimize impact on our customers,'' chief Goodyear negotiator Jim Allen said.

  Akron-based Goodyear ranks No. 3 in the world in tire sales, based on revenues, behind top-ranked Bridgestone and No. 2 Michelin, according to the trade publication Tire Business. The 108-year-old company had 2005 sales of $19.5 billion and more than 100 plants in 29 countries.

  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.

  He said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that unless the strike was lengthy, consumers should not see tire prices affected by the walkout because of the large inventory of tires in the market.

  Markey declined to comment on whether the company's offer involved plant closings.

  A 77-year-old plant in Gadsen, Ala., and one in Tyler, Texas, weren't on the company's list of ''protected'' factories, meaning they could be closed, said Bren Riley, a vice president of Local 12 in Alabama.

  Steve Huston, who has worked at the Topeka, Kan., plant for 36 years, said he understood what was at risk. ''Nobody is glad to be on strike, but we're trying to hold onto what we have and they are trying to take more benefits and wages from us,'' he said.

  Dan Colby, 38, who works at Goodyear's Tonawanda, N.Y., plant near Buffalo, said the strike would be a hardship on most employees, many of whom have families with small children. ''We work hard and are deserving of what we get,'' he said.

  The union said it represents 15,000 employees in Alabama, Kansas, Ohio, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and in Collingwood, Toronto and Owen Sound in Canada. By the company's count, the U.S. plants have about 12,600 employees represented by the Steelworkers.

  Goodyear shares closed down 5 cents at $14.24 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The 52-week range has been between $9.75 and $19.31.


  On the Net: Goodyear: http://www.



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