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US court dismisses Goodyear closure lawsuit

AFP/The Local · 17 Jan 2014, 09:02

Published: 17 Jan 2014 09:02 GMT+01:00

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Goodyear announced a year ago that it was closing the factory in northern France, which employs 1,173 people, after years of negotiations with unions failed to come up with a solution to save jobs.

Unions launched a series of legal proceedings against the company, but to no avail.

In a ruling released Wednesday, US District Judge Sara Lioi said the workers' claim "suffers from numerous deficiencies, not the least of which is that it fails to allege an actual breach of the relevant agreement."

Lawyers for the workers said they planned to appeal.

"We are hopeful that we will obtain a different outcome on appeal," attorneys Bob Gary and Philippe Pradal said in a statement. "The issues raised by this case are important in France and the United States."

Lioi, who handed down her decision near Goodyear's headquarters in Akron, Ohio, said the union workers' lawsuit failed to show that the tire-maker had breached or wrongfully interfered with a bonus agreement between its affiliate in France and union workers by lowering production levels.

The workers filed their class-action lawsuit in an Ohio state court in April, claiming that the loss of production was reducing their bonuses. Goodyear responded by moving the case to Lioi's federal court.

"The (bonus) agreement, itself, does not guarantee any particular level of production, nor does it prohibit the downsizing of production," Lioi wrote in her opinion.

"In fact, the agreement does not even ensure that the plant will remain open for any period of time."

In a last-ditch bid to save the plant and get substantial pay-offs, workers -- led by the CGT union -- earlier this month "bossnapped" the factory's head of production Michel Dheilly and human resources director Bernard Glesser by locking them up.

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Goodyear had refused to negotiate until the executives -- who were treated well throughout their detention -- were freed.

Reacting to news of the kidnapping, the Titan International's outspoken chief Maurice Taylor blasted French workers at the factory in Amiens, saying "in the United States we'd call that a kidnapping".

Taylor has offered to partially take over the plant, in a plan that could preserve 333 jobs at the site for four years or more.

AFP/The Local (sophie.inge@thelocal.com)

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