CHICAGO -- A union representing more than 3,000 Michelin tire workers said Wednesday that it has called off a strike at three U.S. tire plants that was to start within hours, citing some progress in talks.
The United Steelworkers of America had threatened to strike at 12:01 a.m. Thursday at two plants in Alabama and one in Indiana if it did not reach a new contract with the French tire maker, which has said it must cut costs to be competitive.
"While far from an agreement, we've made some progress, and this has encouraged both parties to continue the process at least for now," USWA Executive Vice President John Sellers said in a statement. "We are prepared to continue these discussions for a short additional period as long as we believe progress is being made."
Michelin makes Uniroyal and BFGoodrich tires for passenger vehicles and light trucks at the plants. The contract covers about 2,260 workers at two plants in Alabama and another 1,130 workers at a plant near Fort Wayne, Ind.
Michelin has declined to detail the proposed cuts. However, the union has said the proposed cuts total about 18 percent and include a two-tiered wage system, reduced vacation time and pay, and no retiree health benefits for new hires.
About 1,000 steel workers at a Michelin BFGoodrich plant in Ontario have been on strike since June 1. That plant has used salaried employees to run a reduced operation.
Michelin and the steelworkers union started negotiations on the U.S. contract in early 2003 and then postponed talks until Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and its workers negotiated an agreement that Michelin workers have used as a template.
The U.S. workers have been under day-to-day extensions since April 2003, and the most recent talks started in mid-July. Negotiations for both the U.S. and Canadian contracts are at the same location in Pittsburgh.