Union Says Goodyear Talks 'Intense'

CLEVELAND (AP) -- National contract talks between the United Steelworkers union and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. have reached an intense stage focused on protecting jobs, keeping plants open and addressing health care costs, the union said Friday.

The Goodyear contract with the Steelworkers is scheduled to expire at midnight Saturday for about 10,300 employees at seven plants, in Akron, Ohio; Buffalo, N.Y.; Danville, Va.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Gadsden, Ala.; Topeka, Kan., and Union City, Tenn.

The talks have been under way in Cincinnati since June and the old three-year contract has been extended twice. There was no immediate word on a third extension, but the union told members in an online update that it expected a settlement by the deadline, or before.

Ed Markey, a spokesman at the company headquarters in Akron, said Goodyear was confident a settlement would be reached but offered no timetable.

"Both sides remain fully engaged as negotiations continue," he said in an e-mail. "We remain optimistic that we will reach an agreement."

The company's contract goals have been to improve productivity and flexibility.

Wayne Ranick, a spokesman at union headquarters in Pittsburgh, said that the negotiations have reached an "intense" stage. He said that while affected locals have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if necessary, the company and union were mindful of the economy.

Jack Hefner, president of an Akron union local representing about 300 Goodyear employees, said rank-and-file members understood the economic situation might make reaching a settlement difficult.

"There are no winners in a strike," Hefner said.

John Russo, professor of labor studies at Youngstown State University, said the recession and Goodyear's move to shift production to lower-cost countries put the union in a difficult position. "Management is in a very powerful position," he said.

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