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Conti 2005: Mark Cieslikowski (english)

Speach at the Annual General Meeting of Continental AG,
May 12th, 2005, Hannover, Germany:

My Name is Mark Cieslikowski. I am president of United Steelworkers of America Local 850 in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am here to inform you of the current situation we face concerning our present collective bargaining agreement with Continental Tire North America (CTNA).

First a little history: In September of 1999, Local 850 entered into a 5 1/2 year collective bargaining agreement with CTNA. This was achieved after a 364-day work stoppage, in which the management of CTNA made the decision to replace the workforce instead of negotiating with the membership of Local 850.

The membership of Local 850 returned to their jobs in September of 1999 to find the Charlotte Plant in complete disarray. The two biggest challenges facing the workforce were:

1) The lack of proper equipment maintenance during the work stoppage caused equipment failures, which was preventing the Charlotte Plant from attaining our production ticket. And

2) The need to rebuild the relationship between the management of CTNA and the membership of Local 850.

It has taken several years to overcome a lot of our equipment issues and we still have a long way to go, but with the implementation of programs such as 5s and TPM we have been able to identify and correct some of our most urgent needs.

The membership of Local 850 has worked hard to rebuild the relationship between management and the hourly workforce. Not only has the hourly workforce taken leading roles in the implementation of programs such as 5s and TPM, we have also worked with CTNA management with changes to our health care provider to make the Charlotte plant more cost effective. We have worked with CTNA management during periods of reduced production requirements to help offset the high process costs associated with such reductions. These programs, and many others, have helped rebuild a relationship from one of mistrust and greed to one that proves that the best way to achieve success is with open dialog and teamwork.

This brings us to our present situation, one that has the potential to destroy the valuable relationship which has taken years to rebuild and one that we feel is urgent enough to inform you, the shareholders, about.

When the membership of Local 850 entered into our current contract with CTNA it provided for a reopener in 2003 based on the industry average. This reopener addressed six areas of the contract of which CTNA would honor the industry average of these areas, or if there was a difference of opinion between CTNA and the Union concerning any of these areas, the agreement would be submitted to third party arbitration for resolution.

The reopener was delayed in 2003 due to the fact that the parties involved in the calculation of the industry average were delayed in resolving their agreements. These agreements have now been resolved, and both parties can now address the reopener.

The management of CTNA differs with the Union on the industry averages, but instead of simply following the language as written and submitting the issue to be resolved by a third party, CTNA management is trying to secure concessions in other areas of the current contract by delaying the reopener process and refusing to follow the terms of our present agreement.  In addition, CTNA management has openly stated that they will deny us the right to arbitrate the issues, including the closure and reopener.

Some of the other most recent actions by CTNA management towards the Union workforce was the refusal to pay the most recent Continental AG employee bonus to Unionized employees. This bonus was only paid to salary and non-unionized employees of CTNA, and the Union employees were told to negotiate for this bonus.

CTNA management also removed and destroyed the Union Flag from the Company pole, which flew along side the Continental AG flag for years. The flying of these two flags symbolized the two parties working together in a partnership.

There was absolutely no cost to CTNA to fly this flag. This simple action by management clearly showed that CTNA management would rather destroy the relationship they had with the Unionized hourly workforce to achieve short-term goals then to continue to build on our relationship to accomplishment long-term success.

The Unionized workforce of the Continental Tire plant in Charlotte, North Carolina, is committed to do whatever is necessary to achieve long-term success for our facility by helping to reduce our process costs and by operating at maximum efficiency.  For only through these issues will the Charlotte plant survive on a global level, and without the Charlotte Plant there is no USWA Local 850.

I ask this board of directors and shareholders to step in and question the management decisions being made at CTNA. It’s not too late to end these relationship busting tactics. We are only asking for CTNA management to commit to the agreement that they have already entered into with this Union.


Cieslikowskis Rede auf deutsch

more about Continental in german language

more about Critical Shareholders in english language