ADVERTISEMENT

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and the United Steelworkers of America are trying to reach a new agreement to ward off any potential work disruption, with their current contract set to expire at the end of the day Saturday.

The talks cover about 8,000 U.S. workers at six plants, including the Goodyear Dunlop Tires North America plant in the Town of Tonawanda. The Sheridan Drive plant employs about 1,150 people and is a prominent area manufacturer, producing consumer, commercial truck and motorcycle tires.

Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear said in a statement the negotiations in Cincinnati are “progressing as expected.”

“With the contract deadline quickly approaching, Goodyear is committed to working with the (Steelworkers) to complete an agreement that is mutually beneficial to associates and allows for future growth for North America,” the company said.

But the Steelworkers union this week said “little progress” had been made in key areas such as wages, pensions and health care costs, and advised its members to “start to prepare for the financial struggles that may lie ahead.”

The union’s message notes that employees would keep their health insurance for 90 days from the start of a strike or a lockout and that Steelworkers members would be eligible for strike benefits three weeks following the date a strike begins.

Steelworkers Local 135 represents about 950 workers at the Tonawanda plant, and its president, Thomas O’Shei, is part of the union’s bargaining team in Ohio. O’Shei referred questions about the talks to the Pittsburgh-based Steelworkers’ headquarters.

Tony Montana, a Steelworkers spokesman, said Friday: “We are still meeting with the company. Our committee is hopeful we’ll be able to come to a fair agreement with Goodyear.”

Montana said he could not speculate on the possibility of a strike, saying the union was focused on reaching an agreement.

Negotiations began in April. The current contract was approved in 2009; during those talks, the deal that was in effect was extended twice before a new agreement was reached.

That outcome was in sharp contrast to 2006, when workers at the Tonawanda plant and other plants went on strike for 12 weeks before the sides came to an agreement.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com