CHICAGO -Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and The United Steelworkers of America returned to the negotiating table Jan. 4 after shelving contract talks over the holidays. The two parties reached the impasse after failing to hammer out a workable agreement by their self-imposed Dec. 13 deadline.
"We have made progress toward an agreement on a number of fronts, but other issues require furthr exploration," the two sides said in a prepared statement prior to the resumption of talks.
"Since we cannot reach a full agreement by our self-imposed deadline, the parties jointly decided to recess and resume meetings shortly after the first of the year. Both sides are dedicated to the task of reaching a mutually acceptable collective bargaining agreement."
Union and company officials declined to elaborate on what they termed "progress" in the talks.
The union wnet on strike against the Nashville, Tenn. - based tire maker in July 1994, but the company started hiring strikebreakers in January 1995. The Rubber Workers unconditionally ended the strike in May 1995 and then merged with the Steelworkers last July.
Company and union officials restarted talks Nov. 6 after a six month hiatus. Prior to that, the two parties officially last met in May, a BFS spokesman said.
On Nov. 21, National Labor Relations Board Region 25 converted the union's 10 month walk at BFS to an unfair labor practice strike from an economic action.
The ruling requires the tire maker to recall its union employees who struck and give them back pay from May 22 - or Jan. 10 for workers in Akron and May 8 for laborers in Decatur, Ill. - when locals at those locations unconditionally agreed to return to work.
A union spokesman estimated the ruling is costing the tire manufacturer about $1 million a week in back pay.
Bridgeston/Firestone has yet to recrive a formal compliant fron NLRB, but said it plans to appeal administrative judge and through other legal channels if necessary.
On July 12, 1994, about 4,000 members of the former United Rubber Workers union struck Bridgestone/Firestone facilities in DesMoines, Iowa; Oklahoma City; Decatur; Noblesville, Ind.; and Akron. Only about 1,100 of the 4,000 have yeat to be reinstated, Bridgestone/Firestone said.
In addistion to hiring about 2,300 strikebreakers, the firm recalled more than 1,000 workers. Also about 1,300 crossed the picket line and returned to work, and another 500 retired during the dispute.
Elsewhere, 735 hourly workers at Bridgestone/Firestone Canada Inc.'s original equipment car tire plant in Joliette, Quebec, continued their more than four month walkout. The union struck Aug. 23, after a company negotiators refected the workers' demand for wage and pension benefit hikes.