BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Sept. 17, 2004) — Bridgestone/Firestone Argentina S.A.I.C. has settled an 11-month labor dispute at its Buenos Aires tire plant, clearing the way for the company to resume investing in modernization efforts at the 73-year-old facility.
The settlement follows an eight-day blockade in late June and early July on suppliers delivering materials to the plant, followed by a general strike there the week of Sept. 6, according to the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).
A spokesman for Bridgestone Americas Holding L.L.C. confirmed the settlement, which was concluded with the help of mediators from the Argentine national labor ministry.
Under the settlement, BFS Argentina agreed to recall 12 employees let go last October in the midst of a labor dispute over work-rule changes and offer full backpay to last October and fixed payments for a further 20 months to those laid off.
The firm also has agreed to employ these workers on a sub-contract basis as the need arises and to start talks towards a new collective bargaining deal.
The dispute began in October 2003 when BFS management barred representatives of the union SUTNA (Sindicato Unico de Trabajadores del Neumatico Argentina) from the plant. The company subsequently tabled plans to invest $50 million in the 700-employee unit and scaled back operations to six days a week from seven, causing around 60 layoffs.
BFS had ruled out collective agreement talks with unions since a prior contract expired in 2001, in breach of Argentina's labor rules, the ICEM claimed. Management had rebuffed several directives from Argentina's labor minister to enter talks with unions to resolve the dispute.
The plant makes passenger, light and medium truck, farm and OTR tires. Capacity is listed as 7,700 units a day. The company spokesman said the plant's output did not suffer during the union's strikes or blockades.