PITTSBURGH (May 23) — The United Steelworkers union has set a negotiating deadline of May 28 with tire maker Bridgestone/Firestone and targeted a strike to begin in mid-July if no progress towards a new contract is made.
If the two sides are deadlocked with no clear movement toward a settlement, the union's bargaining committee will go back to the locals and the members will begin strike mobilization, a USW spokesman said. The union will serve notice to the company that a July strike is imminent, he said.
Negotiators for the company and union have been bargaining on and off for two years, dating back to April 2003 when their three-year master agreement expired. About 6,000 unionized employees at eight BFS tire and rubber sites have been working on an extension since then.
A newsletter to members on the union's BFS-related Web site said, "Despite two years of effort on our part, we are no closer to an agreement now than we were when we started. The company continues to insist on massive concessions and has yet to meaningfully address job security and our other needs."
"Our guys prefer a settlement to anything else, and are willing to give it one more shot before taking strike action," the union spokesman said.
The latest round of talks began May 16 in St. Louis. BFS is the only one of the major tire companies that had master contracts with the USW expiring in the 2003 negotiations year without a settlement in place. Some of the unresolved issues include job security and North American plant investment, import restrictions and neutrality.