Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Goodyear considers layoffs, closings to save $1.1 billion

The Associated Press

AKRON - Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is considering closing an Alabama tire plant and laying off as many as 2,400 more workers at plants in 10 other states to meet its goal of saving $1.1 billion in the next three years, company officials said Monday.

Among other things, a three-year contract approved last week by Goodyear employees gives the company the option to cut jobs if production and cost-cutting goals aren't met. Those goals have not been determined.

"We're not announcing closure of any plants today, but we obviously have the option to do so," Robert Keegan, chief executive officer, said.

Goodyear executives said in a conference call for analysts that the company could cut as many as 15 percent of the roughly 16,000 jobs at 14 plants in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois, Alabama, Nebraska, Wisconsin, New York, Kansas, Texas and Tennessee.

The contract also allows the company to close the Dunlop tire facility in Huntsville, Ala., which employs about 1,300 people and is Goodyear's most expensive plant to operate.

Jonathan Rich, president of the North American Tire division, said no decisions have been made about closures or layoffs.

"When we make those decisions, we'll let people know," he said.

Cutting 500 workers from the payroll would save Goodyear about $40 million annually, Keegan said.

Steelworkers of America spokesman Wayne Ranick said it's a positive that Goodyear agreed to protect at least 85 percent of its North American jobs.

Workers realize sacrifices must be made to ensure a stable financial future for Goodyear, he said. "There's also going to be a lot of reductions in terms of management salaried positions," Ranick said.

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