AKRON-Apparently persuaded they had Goodyear's best offer, unionized workers have ratified the same master contract agreement they originally rejected. That frees the United Rubber Workers to focus its attention on Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., the only one of the three tire makers involved in the master contract not to have an agreement in place. Workers at Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. ratified their contract in May.
BFS submitted its latest offer-its fourth-June 29, its first meeting with URW officials since May 24. The two sides were scheduled to meet again July 7, as this issue went to press.
For Goodyear, the pivotal vote came June 23 when members of Local 878 at the Union City, Tenn., tire plant approved the contract after previously rejecting it by an overwhelming margin. On June 27, members of Local 831 at the Danville, Va., tire unit reversed their vote as well.
In all, eight of the nine Goodyear locals in the master contract-covering 12,200 workers-approved the new agreement.
Only Local 12 in Gadsden, Ala., stood by its original ``No'' vote, according to a URW spokesman.
While the new agreement doesn't provide a flat raise, it does: maintain the cost-of-living allowance (COLA); raise pensions for future retirees; and set up a new performance-based bonus system tied to company profitability that could net workers a bonus of up to $1,500 a year.
The pact also allows workers to choose fully paid health care coverage and grants full health benefits to retirees who have 30 years of service.
``Contrary to reports that it's a `no-raise' pact, it's a (total) 16-percent increase over the previous pact,'' said the URW spokesman.
Goodyear officials estimated that COLA gains would increase average earnings to $49,000 from $45,000 in three years, and that wages and benefits combined would rise more than $10,000 from the present $67,000.
``We are pleased with these results,'' said Jim Warren, Goodyear's director of industrial relations and its chief negotiator. ``Now we can all get back to the business of keeping Goodyear ahead of our competition.''
While reaching a pact with Goodyear was difficult-the plants had been operating on a day-to-day basis since April 24-remaining negotiations with Bridgestone/Firestone may be tougher.
The Bridgestone Corp. subsidiary's latest proposal seeks such changes as continuous operations, more relaxed work rules and employee contributions to health care. The firm claims its costs already are $5 a tire more than its competitors and a settlement like Goodyear's would add an additional $2.50 per tire.
``We haven't changed our objectives,'' said a BFS spokesman. ``We already told them that (the Goodyear) settlement doesn't meet our needs.''
The URW represents 4,200 Bridgestone/Firestone workers.