ST. LOUIS (June 21, 2000)—The United Steelworkers of America and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. are progressing in their master contract talks, but still are "substantially apart" on a number of non-financial issues, according to a USWA spokesman.
The two sides have bargained officially in St. Louis since March 6 and worked on a day-to-day extension of the three-year deal that was to expire April 23.
Bridgestone/Firestone and the union have discussed seniority, attendance programs, neutrality, grievance procedures and job security, but haven´t found common ground, the spokesman said.
There have been contract proposals and revisions to those proposals, but there is a gap the two sides must work to narrow, he said. But the union isn´t thinking strike at this time.
"Our philosophy remains that we want to get a fair contract without a work stoppage," he said. "We have a commitment to get this resolved."
The United Rubber Workers, which merged with the Steelworkers in 1995, struck against Bridgestone/Firestone for 10 months beginning in July 1994. At the time, it was the longest strike in tire industry history.
The day-to-day extension can be terminated by either side by giving 14-day notice.
Bridgestone/Firestone believes it is always a good thing when the two sides are talking, a company spokeswoman said. "We´re positive we´ll come to a reasonable agreement in a reasonable amount of time," she said.
The rest of the tire industry is watching while the Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker and the USWA continue negotiations. The union chose Bridgestone/Firestone as its target company for 2000 master talks in April, and bargaining with Goodyear and Michelin North America Inc.´s Uniroyal Goodrich tire units were suspended in the meantime.
Negotiations between Bridgestone/ Firestone and the USWA affect more than 7,000 workers at six U.S. tire and non-tire plants plus the company´s LaVergne, Tenn., facility, which also is on a master contract schedule.
The Steelworkers also want to include unionized workers at Bridgestone/Firestone plants in Warren County, Tenn., and Bloomington, Ill., in the master contract. The current Warren County pact expires July 22, while the contract in Bloomington was extended to a day-to-day agreement shortly before it expired March 20.