It once was known as the ``Triennial Passion Play''—the master contract talks between the United Rubber Workers union and the tire manufacturers. Now it's the ``Sexennial Passion Play,'' following the agreement by Goodyear and the United Steelworkers of America to a six-year master labor deal. And the stage is set for more drama in contract talks between the USWA and Michelin North America Inc.
Goodyear might consider sending a $50 million bill for lost production to two competitors. By breaking ranks from the last master contract, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. obtained cost advantages against Goodyear. Michelin, too, earlier wrested concessions from union workers at its Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. subsidiary.
That caused Goodyear and the union to take hard-line approaches, resulting in an 18-day strike. But today, Goodyear and the USWA should be happy with the deal they fashioned.
Goodyear obtained cost advantages that improve its position against the competition. And, all said and done, the short time span of the walkout didn't hurt the firm too much financially or in the image area.
That second point shouldn't be discounted. Goodyear executives, including Chairman Sam Gibara, were highly sensitive to the bad press the company received when it announced plans to transfer of 150 jobs from Akron to Chile. The firm didn't need nor want a long, ugly strike and the negative news it would generate.
The union, despite giving up some concessions, walked away with the job security a six-year pact brings. The Steelworkers could have done a lot worse.
Now Goodyear and the union can rebuild the atmosphere of partnership that existed at the company for many years. The positive outcome of the talks and strike should facilitate that.
Of great interest to Goodyear and its workers will be how the master contract plays with Michelin and, eventually, Bridgestone/Firestone.
After taking a hiatus during the Goodyear strike, Michelin and USWA negotiators have resumed talks over contracts covering the Uniroyal Goodrich plants. Michelin hasn't budged from its previous stance, union officials reported.
Michelin has a big card it can play if needed: 10 of its 14 North American tire plants are non-union. The outcome of these discussions will determine whether the Goodyear pact is the pattern for the industry, or whether Michelin starts another ripple effect of concessionary contracts.