Goodyear Wins Dismissal of Suit Over French Plant Closing

Jan 16, 2014 3:47 pm ET

(Updates with attorney’s comment in ninth paragraph.)

Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. won dismissal of a $4 million U.S. lawsuit by French workers challenging the shuttering of a plant in Amiens after a judge said the decision didn’t violate an employee bonus agreement.

Worker Mickael Wamen and an employees’ representative council claimed Goodyear breached promises made under a production bonus agreement by directing a decrease in plant output. Workers sought class action, or group status for all employees of the Amiens North facility who worked there since January 2009. They wanted damages of about $4 million.

“The agreement, itself, does not guarantee any particular level of production, nor does it prohibit the downsizing of production,” U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi in Akron said yesterday, throwing out the case. “In fact, the agreement does not even ensure that the plant will remain open for any period of time.”

Goodyear, which employs about 3,000 people in France, announced plans in January 2013 to shut the facility after failing to reach an accord following five years of talks with the main union at the site. Those plans, which put 1,173 jobs at risk, triggered violent clashes that left 19 police officers injured in March.

The lawsuit was filed last year in Ohio state court in Akron, where the tire maker is based. Goodyear had the case shifted to Akron federal court a month later.

Held Hostages

Workers angry over the plant closing this month occupied the facility, burned tires and for two days held hostage two executives of Goodyear’s French unit.

“The show is only just beginning,” Wamen said last week at a press conference after the captives were freed.

Workers’ lawyer Robert Gary said by phone today that he’d conferred with French co-counsel about the court’s decision.

“They want to appeal,” he said. “We’re going to look at the decision and see where we go.” He is a partner in the Lorain, Ohio, firm Gary Naegele & Thaedo LLC.

“This case was without merit,” said Keith Price, a Goodyear spokesman, in a telephone interview today.

The case is Wamen v. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 13- cv-1084, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Akron).

--Editors: David Glovin, Mary Romano