NEW YORK -- Tire maker BFGoodrich said the union representing 4,400 workers at four plants in the United States and Canada had ratified labor contracts.
The United Steelworkers of America said the approval was overwhelming, with 70 percent of workers at the U.S. plants ratifying their agreement, and 94 percent of the Canadian workers ratifying a similar agreement.
Wages are on average expected to rise about 3 percent a year under the agreements, which expire July 22, 2006, union spokesman John Duray said in an interview Friday. Health care provisions have also been revised, he said.
BFGoodrich said the agreements are expected over time to "significantly" reduce the plants' $300 million annual labor expenses through cost savings and increased efficiencies.
The company said it will invest $150 million to help the plants produce larger and higher-margin tires.
BFGoodrich, which is part of France's Michelin, and the union announced the votes late Thursday. A tentative accord had been announced last week.
About 3,400 of the workers are employed at plants in Opelika, Ala.; Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Fort Wayne, Ind. Another 1,000 work at a Kitchener, Ontario, plant. The plants make Uniroyal and BF Goodrich passenger car and light-truck tires.
The pact "preserves jobs and ensures a future for all four plants, which were endangered by foreign imports and lack of investment," said John Sellers, an executive vice president for the union, in a statement.
No plant closings or layoffs will occur during the term of the agreement, the union said.
Michelin has previously said it needed to cut costs to keep the plants competitive. The company, like other tire makers, said it has been hit by higher raw material and fuel costs.
Michelin and the steelworkers' union had been in sporadic talks since early 2003 on the U.S. contract. U.S. plant workers had been working under day-to-day extensions since April 2003.
Talks had been on hold until Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and its workers a year ago negotiated their own agreement, which became a template for the BFGoodrich talks.