Bridgestone Disappointed With Union Stance
Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, a division of Japanese tire maker Bridgestone Corp., is ready to return to the negotiating table with the United Steelworkers of America, a spokesman told Dow Jones Newswires on Monday. The company is waiting to hear from the union, which broke off contract talks last week, said spokesman Dan MacDonald. The union represents 6,000 workers at six U.S. tire manufacturing sites in Tennessee, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas and Indiana. Bridgestone/Firestone operates two non-union factories, and a chain of Firestone retail stores.
A previous three-year USWA union contract expired in April. Since then, employees in the company’s largest union have worked on a day-to-day basis until a new deal can be hammered out. Union spokesman Wayne Ranick said the two sides began talking last year, but contract negotiations were put off when the union chose to work with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Corp. to get a so-called pattern agreement for a new round of contracts with other tire companies.
While neither side would discuss contract details, Ranick said the union’s initial offer to Bridgestone used the Goodyear agreement, signed in September, as a template. Bridgestone came back with a counter offer that was “a non-starter,” Ranick said. Following a meeting in St. Louis, “we let the company know last week that their proposal is not even a starting point for negotiations,” he said. “Let’s just say that there is a wide gulf between the two sides.” The purpose of a pattern agreement is to “give all companies a level playing field when it comes to labour costs,” Ranick said. He said the steelworkers’ union is also in talks with tire makers Uniroyal/Goodrich, a unit of Michelin in France, and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
Bridgestone spokesman MacDonald said “we’re disappointed that the union made the decision to walk away from the talks. We think it’s in both our best interests to work together.” In the mid-1990’s, the company experienced an 18-month strike by the steelworkers’ union.