Bernard Simon / Financial Times – 2006-12-20 08:13:43
TORONTO (December 15, 2006) — The US Army is considering measures to force striking workers back to their jobs at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant in Kansas in the face of a looming shortage of tyres for Humvee trucks and other military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A strike involving 17,000 members of the United Steelworkers union has crippled 16 Goodyear plants in the US and Canada since October 5.
The main issues in dispute are the company’s plans to close a unionised plant in Texas, and a proposal for workers to shoulder future increases in healthcare costs.
An army spokeswoman said on Friday that “there’s not a shortage right now but there possibly will be one in the future”.
According to Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House of Representatives armed services committee, the strike has cut output of Humvee tyres by about 35 per cent.
Mr Hunter said that the army had stopped supplying tyres to units not related to the Central Command, which is responsible for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tyres were also not being provided to army repair depots.
While concern has centred on the Humvees, tyres are also critical to aircraft and other military equipment.
Goodyear brushed off concerns of looming shortages, saying that production at the Kansas plant, where the Humvee tyres are made, “is near normal levels and will be back to 100 per cent in the near future.”
It added that “we’re in daily contact with the military to ensure delivery of the required Humvee tyres”.
The company said it was using salaried and temporary workers to keep the Kansas plant running. It has taken similar measures at other plants, as well as stepping up imports from overseas factories to maintain supplies to the car and truck industry.
The union claims that the strikebound plants are running at about 20 per cent of capacity. Goodyear has said that North American output is at about half normal levels, including non-union plants.
According to Mr Hunter, the army is exploring a possible injunction under the Taft-Hartley Act to force the 200 Kansas workers back to their jobs.
He proposed that they return under their current terms of employment, on the understanding that any settlement would be extended to them.
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