Workers at Bridgestone/Firestone's unionized U.S. tire and rubber plants are scheduled to vote near the end of June on new contracts that will run until July 23, 2006.
But one United Steelworkers union local has refused to accept the tentative agreement reached with the company June 9, and its leaders have recommended to members that they vote down the latest BFS proposal.
The tentative deals include plant protection for five of eight plants, 90-percent guaranteed staffing levels and ticket protection and minimum capital expenditures of $190 million through 2006 at the protected plants, according to the master contract summary.
Hourly employees will vote on the tentative pacts-covering about 6,000 workers at eight plants-July 28 and 29, the USW said. Six of the locals are covered by a master contract with BFS, while Local 787 at the company's Bloomington, Ill., off-the-road tire facility, and Local 1155 at its Warren County, Tenn., truck and bus tire factory, are covered by separate contracts.
However, leaders of Local 1155 are not happy with the ``last, best'' offer from BFS, and unlike the other locals, did not sign a tentative agreement. Ron Vining, the local president, said the Warren County facility is the company's most profitable union plant, and the proposal is substandard for what his members do every day.
Workers in Warren County have mandatory overtime to deal with, and the Local 1155 members don't make as much vacation money as their colleagues at other plants do, Mr. Vining said.
The hourly employees at the other large plants that run on 12-hour shifts-in LaVergne, Tenn.; Des Moines, Iowa; and Oklahoma City-work 12 hours and get paid for it, he said; at Warren County the workers work 12½ hours and get paid for 12.
Employees at the other sites also work at constant production rates, while at the Warren County site the company can raise the required pace as it sees fit, Mr. Vining said.
After coming back from the negotiating sessions held in St. Louis, Mr. Vining shared the BFS proposal with the executive board, which voted to reject it. He said June 15 the local will hold its own informational meetings June 16 and 17, then will vote on whether to accept the contract proposal soon afterwards. He didn't speculate on what Local 1155 would do if the membership does reject the proposal.
A BFS spokesman said the company is disappointed the Local 1155 executive committee recommended against the new deal's ratification. ``We set out to get an agreement in the best interest of both parties, and we think this is a good contract,'' he said. ``We think it should be ratified.''
Despite the problems with the union there, the Warren County factory is one of the protected plants based on the tentative agreements, meaning it can't be closed during the life of the pact. The others are in LaVergne, Des Moines, Oklahoma City and Akron.
The Bloomington plant, the company's Noblesville, Ind., air springs site; and the Russellville, Ark., inner tube facility were designated as ``distressed'' plants in the tentative contract. They received no job security provisions, but Local 787 President Gary Starkey said his members would receive the same benefits as those covered in the master contract.
The USW locals in Akron, LaVergne, Noblesville and Oklahoma City were scheduled to hold informational meetings for members either on June 16 or June 16-17. Local 884 in Russellville will hold an informational meeting June 20; Local 310 in Des Moines on June 21-23; and Local 787 in Bloomington on June 26.