Goodyear to close tire plant in Texas, eliminating 1,100 jobs

Akron, Ohio (AP) - The tension surrounding the three-week strike by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. workers increased Monday after the tire maker said it was closing its plant in Tyler, Texas.

The fate of the plant and its 1,100 employees had been a key difference in negotiations that have been stalled since more than 12,000 workers in the United States and Canada went on strike Oct. 5.

The United Steelworkers union, which represents Goodyear employees, says it’s against the company’s plan to close the Texas plant and a factory in Gadsden, Ala. Goodyear has refused to discuss details of its last contract offer but has said it wants the union to help the company be competitive in a global economy.

Goodyear said shuttering the 44-year-old Tyler plant and eliminating the jobs is part of the world’s third largest tire maker’s strategy to end some of its private label tire business. No closing date was given.

“We must take the steps necessary to reduce our costs and improve our competitive position,” Jon Rich, president of North American Tire, said in a statement. “While this is an extremely difficult decision for everyone involved, it was required to help turn around our North American business.”

Meanwhile, the steelworkers union criticized Goodyear for hiring temporary workers, saying the company is incapable of making safe, dependable tires without its union work force.

Goodyear is hiring an unspecified number of temporary workers at 12 plants affected by the strike, including the Tyler plant.

Jim Taylor, who’s worked at the Tyler plant for 26 years, said he’s now considering electrician jobs in Mississippi and Florida.

“I feel very frustrated and very let down. I spent this amount of time at Goodyear and now still have to go look for another job,” he said.

Goodyear said in June that it wanted to leave parts of the private label tire business and that the decision would mean a reduction in capacity. But the company then refused to name specific plants.

Goodyear previously announced to investors an aggressive strategy to reduce costs by more than $1 billion by 2008.

Goodyear shares closed up 22 cents to $15.18 in trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares have been trading between $9.75 and $19.31 over the last year.

The company employs about 80,000 people in 28 countries.

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