Negotiators for the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) and Michelin North America Inc.'s BFGoodrich tire plants continued contract negotiations past an Aug. 12 strike deadline, citing meaningful discussions leading up to the zero-hour.
The two sides made some inroads via ``intensive bargaining,'' the USWA said.
``While far from an agreement, we've made some progress and this has encouraged both parties to continue the process at least for now,'' said John Sellers, USWA executive vice president. ``We are prepared to continue these discussions for a short additional period as long as we believe progress is being made.''
In a statement, Michelin said talks had been productive and would continue toward achieving a new agreement.
On Aug. 8, the USWA/BFGoodrich policy committee declared a 12:01 a.m. strike deadline on Aug. 12 if no deal was reached. The union said it wanted to increase the rate of progress in its contract discussions while addressing many unresolved issues. Bargaining between the two sides began July 14 in Pittsburgh.
About 3,400 Michelin employees organized under the USWA at the company's passenger and light truck tire facilities in Tuscaloosa and Opelika, Ala., and Fort Wayne, Ind., have been working on an extension since their previous master contract expired in April 2003.
The USWA wants long-term investment commitments for Michelin's unionized North American facilities, similar to what it achieved in the master pact with Goodyear last fall. The Goodyear deal was to serve as the pattern agreement for the tire industry, but both Michelin and Bridgestone/Firestone have had concerns about following it.
Talks between BFS and the USWA broke down in November because of disputes over the pattern agreement and have not resumed.
Michelin wants to reduce costs by 18 percent at its three unionized U.S. tire plants, the USWA claims. Michelin maintains its goal is to make its BFGoodrich facilities ``more competitive and improve their long-term viability.''
Separate, concurrent negotiations between the firm and union also have been taking place in Pittsburgh regarding the strike at Michelin's Kitchener, Ontario, tire plant. About 1,000 workers walked out there on June 1.