NEW ORLEANS-Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. executives gave their side of the story concerning the still-smoldering conflict with the former United Rubber Workers during the company's annual consumer tire dealer meeting in New Orleans, Oct. 10. And they thanked dealers for their support of the company in view of what they said was union ``harassment.''
``BFS did not refuse to bargain in good faith; we did not hire replacement workers from Brazil and Japan; we did not devastate thousands of working families across America; and we did not force the employees to strike,'' BFS President Kenji Shibata said.
There has been no negative impact on the company's business, despite these and other untruthful statements leveled at the company, he continued. ``We believe, in the main, the public is very tired of listening to false accusations from the union,'' Mr. Shibata said.
Four thousand members of the former United Rubber Workers union, now part of the United Steelworkers of America, struck three BFS tire plants and two other company facilities for 10 months.
The work stoppage, the longest in industry history, ended May 22, when the union advised members to return to work unconditionally.
But the union continues to battle over the rehiring of 1,300 members who were displaced by workers hired in January.
In explaining the company's position, John Lampe, president of Bridgestone/Firestone Tire Sales Co., said BFS decided in 1993 that, to be more competitive, it needed to switch three of its tire plants from five-day work schedules to seven-day operations using 12-hour shifts.
The union opposed the move, even though such work schedules have become almost the norm in the industry and would have provided employees with 189 days off per year, plus vacation, he said.
Besides the work schedule changes, Mr. Lampe said the union also opposed healthcare co-payments, productivity incentives and lower starting wages that build up as employees gain experience.
BFS is now operating the plants seven days a week and the plan for 1996 calls for them to achieve the increased output and cost reductions that come with the new work schedule.