A time-honored pressure tactic did the job for Rubatex Corp. in its effort to wrest contract changes from a Rubber Workers local. Rubatex wanted to invest in its Bedford, Va., facility, which makes closed-cell foam products. But before it committed, the firm sought changes in its contract with Rubber Workers Local 240 to gain more manufacturing flexibility-mandatory overtime and some weekend work, and the ability to lay off more-senior workers for short periods.
In exchange, Rubatex planned to spend $5.7 million on plant renovations-which it said can be translated into job security-and grant a pay raise. If the union didn't approve the contract changes, the company promised the alternative wouldn't be pretty.
The union balked, turning down the new contract by a two-vote margin.
That's when Rubatex applied the squeeze, just as it has said it would. The company three days later announced it was moving the extrusion department from Bedford to a facility in Colt, Ark., and planned to lay off about one-third of the Bedford work force.
The union got the message this time, and OK'd the changes by a 344-124 margin.
Pitting one plant against another-which Rubatex, in essence, did-is a tough negotiating approach. The Bedford union isn't complaining about it, though: Indeed, the workers are fortunate Rubatex management was willing to rescind its plans after the workers ``rectified'' their earlier vote.
As the world gets more competitive, and the union movement remains a shadow of its former self, look for more of the ``carrot and stick'' tactic that Rubatex used so effectively.
Yokohama Tire Corp. has embarked on some serious damage control.
The company adamantly denies reports a quality problem at its Salem, Va., tire plant played a part in the loss of a major customer. The firm has met with the media and communicated repeatedly with its employees to rebut claims from two union workers at the facility and some customers. Yokohama even obtained a signed statement from one of its employees, denying he talked to the press.
Yokohama, obviously, will go to great lengths to protect its name and, we assume, the quality of its products.