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Cooper Tire cuts 80 salaried jobs; Fostoria spark plug plant to close

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Cooper Tire & Rubber Company

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Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. said it has eliminated 80 salaried positions within its North American operations, including 60 jobs at its headquarters in Findlay as part of reorganization of its corporate structure.

The company released a statement Wednesday explaining the layoffs, and Cooper Tire spokesman Megan James later indicated the job losses had occurred this week.

Meanwhile, in nearby Fostoria officials of the Fram Group Operations LLC filed a WARN notice on Monday confirming that the company will close its Autolite Spark Plug plant permanently there on or about Jan. 31 and eliminate 62 jobs. The company said most jobs will be eliminated on that date, but that some production and maintenance employees will remain until May 31.

Cooper Tire’s third quarter earnings, which were reported on Oct. 30, showed the company had profits that rose 39 percent to $68 million, but it also had lower revenues.

The tire maker’s higher profits largely were credited to a $39 million benefit in operating profit related to reduced product liability costs. Overall, its net sales were down 2.3 percent to $734 million, partly because of $19 million in lower unit volume.

Analysts had expected revenues of $788 million, and Cooper Tire also stated that it expects a fourth-quarter operating margin below its previous mid-term target of 8 to 10 percent.

In announcing the layoffs and restructuring, Cooper Tire said it is responding to changes in the tire industry and transforming the company to best position it for long-term profitable growth.

“These changes include addressing our organizational structure, a process which has resulted in the reorganization of certain departments and the elimination of approximately 80 salaried positions within North America. This includes approximately 60 salaried positions in Findlay with the vast majority of those being corporate roles,” the statement said.

“While a decision to eliminate positions is very difficult, the reorganization will help our business operate more effectively and efficiently and will align our people to deliver the transformation necessary to execute our strategic plans and drive growth,” the statement added.

In October, leaders of UAW Local 533 in Fostoria showed up for labor negotiations but were told there would be no new contract and the plant’s owner, Rank Group Ltd., intended to shut the factory. The union had attempted to seek ways to keep the plant operating, but the WARN notice filed Monday provided confirmation that those attempts were unsuccessful.

Ten years ago, Autolite was Fostoria’s largest employer with nearly 1,000 workers. But the plant had been shedding jobs for several years, including a decision in 2008 to move hundreds of jobs to Mexico.

Honeywell owned the plant up until 2011, when it was sold to Rank Group, a private investment firm, which folded the plant into its Fram Group subsidiary.

Contact Jon Chavez at jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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