LaVERGNE, Tenn.-Bridgestone/Firestone is recalling the last of 400 workers it laid off last January at its LaVergne manufacturing facility.
Analysts said the action had more to do with making up for lost production at the just-closed Decatur, Ill., factory than with any upswing in the firm's sales outlook. A BFS spokeswoman, however, said there was no connection between the closure at Decatur and the rehiring at LaVergne.
The tire maker laid off more than 1,100 workers at LaVergne and Oklahoma City Jan. 21 because of production cutbacks mandated by falling sales.
The laid-off workers at LaVergne began coming back ``about June,'' according to Garry Manning, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 1055, which organizes the LaVergne facility. The last 65 of them are due to be back on the job shortly after Jan. 1, he said.
``They're telling us sales are increasing,'' Mr. Manning said. ``Plants are running at about 70-percent capacity around the country, and they're just trying to get them back up to capacity.''
There are about 80 slots to be filled at LaVergne, all in the truck-bus tire production side, the BFS spokeswoman said. Once the 65 laid-off workers and 15 new hires are on the job in January, the plant will have about 1,600 workers and be back up to full capacity.
The spokeswoman said she didn't have exact figures on capacity, but added that the LaVergne plant is unusual because it produces passenger, light truck and truck/bus tires.
Saul Ludwig, an industry analyst with McDonald & Co. in Cleveland, warned against reading too much into the recall of the LaVergne workers.
``I just interpret it as making up for some of the tire production lost when Decatur closed down, as opposed to reading into it a resumption of growth in the business,'' Mr. Ludwig said. The Decatur plant closed down for good Dec. 14.
The BFS spokeswoman said the rehiring at LaVergne had nothing to do with Decatur. ``All the rehiring is in TBR (truck-bus radials), which were never manufactured at Decatur.''
``Things are definitely improving'' at BFS according to its most recent production numbers, particularly in Firestone brand passenger and light truck tires, she added.
The tire maker announced in April that it would recall the first 150 LaVergne workers and the first 330 of 700 laid-off Oklahoma City workers.