PITTSBURGH (June 30)—Workers at seven Bridgestone/Firestone tire and rubber plants have ratified new contracts with the company, securing the bulk of jobs through July 2006 and ending a two-year stretch of sporadic negotiations.
About 70 percent of hourly employees represented by the United Steelworkers union approved a master contract running through July 23 of next year in ratification votes held June 28-29 at local sites. The master contract covers workers at BFS tire facilities in Akron, Des Moines, Iowa; LaVergne, Tenn.; and Oklahoma City; the company's inner tube plant in Russellville, Ark.; and its air spring factory in Noblesville, Ind.
Workers at BFS´ Bloomington, Ill., off-the-road tire plant, who have a concurrent but separate agreement with the company, ratified their contract as well. A vote for a separate tentative agreement reached for the maintenance group at the LaVergne plant was scheduled for June 30.
Nashville-based BFS also has an agreement with the hourly workforce at its Warren County, Tenn., tire facility, but 85 percent of the nearly 800 USW members there voted down the company´s proposal on June 17. Ron Vining, president of USW Local 1155 representing the Warren County workers, said following the vote the local would target a July 15 strike date if the other BFS locals approved their contracts. A five-day notice is required before a walkout.
For the more than 5,000 USW members at the other seven BFS plants, the highlights of the new contracts include no health care premiums for active and retired workers; 90-percent guaranteed staffing levels and production ticket protection; a raise in the monthly pension multiplier to $54 per year of service from $50; and distribution of 98 cents per hour of accumulated cost-of-living allowance, with 73 cents going directly to the workers.
The master contract also includes plant protection—meaning no closures during the life of the agreement—at four of the seven facilities, with the Warren County factory originally in the group as well. The others are in Des Moines, Oklahoma City, Akron and Lavergne.
BFS also will make minimum capital expenditures of $190 million through 2006 at the protected facilities, according to the contract.
The pacts line up with master contracts reached previously with Goodyear and Michelin North America Inc.´s BFGoodrich tire units. The hourly BFS employees have been working under day-to-day extensions since the previous three-year contract expired in April 2003.