NEW HAVEN, Conn.-United Rubber Workers members have ratified a three-year master contract with Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp., ending a labor battle that started more than eight months ago. The pact contains minor concessions from workers in the areas of wages and health care coverage that give the company more flexibility, said Stanley W. Johnson, president of URW Local 670 in Nashville, Tenn. About 80 percent of the local's 425 members voted for the deal in balloting held March 24-25, he said.
``The major feeling is we've won a victory, for us and for labor as a whole,'' Mr. Johnson said. ``. . . (W)e won all major points the company tried to take away.''
He said those points included lifetime medical benefits for retirees, pension benefits and cost-of-living increases, as well as the return of all workers terminated for alleged acts of violence during the strike.
A Pirelli spokesman declined to discuss details of the agreement, yet said it gave the Italian-owned firm changes needed to remain competitive. ``It allows us to reduce our labor costs and increase our productivity over time.''
Had the company agreed to these contract conditions in July, the strike could have been avoided, said Lewis V. ``Sonny'' Milton, president of Local 703 in Hanford, Calif. ``We know the strike cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.''
Mr. Johnson agreed, adding that nobody wins in a protracted labor dispute. He estimated the union sacrificed $9 million to $12 million in wages during the strike.
Meanwhile, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. officials are reviewing new URW proposals presented during the two parties' March 23-24 meetings with federal mediators in Chicago. The tire maker declined to disclose details of the proposals, but said progress was made and it will respond to the offers within two weeks.