Negotiators for Bridgestone/Firestone and the United Steelworkers of America (USWA), after finding some common ground, will look for a little more this month.
The two sides were scheduled to return to the bargaining table for the first time in more than a year beginning Dec. 6 in St. Louis. BFS and USWA representatives met Nov. 16-17 in St. Louis to see if it was worthwhile to restart contract talks. Those meetings were constructive enough to spur more discussions, a USWA spokesman said.
``Talks were meaningful,'' the spokesman said. ``We see a roadway to a possible agreement.''
The company is pleased the parties are taking a step in the right direction. ``We believe it's important to open the lines of communication,'' a BFS spokesman said. ``We need to work together.''
The three-year master contract covering about 6,000 unionized workers at eight U.S. BFS tire and rubber plants expired in April 2003. Employees have been working on day-to-day extensions since then.
BFS and the USWA began talks before the contract expired last year but put off further discussions while the union negotiated with Goodyear. Discussions recommenced after a three-year Goodyear/USWA contract was completed in September 2003.
However, the union walked away from talks last November, claiming BFS' proposals didn't address important items from the Goodyear contract, such as job security, import restriction and neutrality.
While no talks were taking place with BFS, the USWA in August reached a three-year agreement with Michelin North America Inc.'s BFGoodrich tire manufacturing unit, which employs about 3,400 union workers at three U.S. plants.
The union also agreed to a three-year deal with about 1,000 workers at the company's BFGoodrich plant in Kitchener, Ontario, ending a three-month strike there.
Talks also are continuing and progress being made with Yokohama Tire Corp. regarding workers at its Salem, Va., radial tire plant, the USWA spokesman said. The six-year contract with Yokohama expired in July 2003, but like the other tire makers, negotiations at that time took a back seat to the Goodyear bargaining.