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Union rejects BFNT's contract extension offer

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Bridgestone Firstone North American Tire LLC (BFNT) says the United Steelworkers have rejected the company's offer to extend "nearly all parts" of the parties' current labor contract while talks are still taking place.

The existing contract will expire on July 23.

The following is an official statement from BFNT regarding the development:

"We are disappointed that the USW has rejected Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC (BFNT) and BFS Diversified Products LLC’s (BFDP) offer to extend nearly all parts of the current agreements covering Warren County local 1155 and the facilities covered by the (existing) master contract -- Akron, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; La Vergne, Tenn.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; the Firestone tube plant in Russellville, Ark., and the Firestone air spring plant in Noblesville, Ind. -- on a day-to-day basis while the parties are in negotiations for new union contracts. The current contracts are set to expire at 12:01 a.m. July 23, 2006.

"Typically, this type of day-to-day extension provides for a cancellation of an existing agreement by either side with five-days written notice.

"Despite the USW’s rejection of (our) offer to extend nearly all aspects of the contracts during the negotiations, BFNT and BFDP intend to continue production at their respective plants.

"The offer to extend the local agreements with (BFNT's) Bloomington, Ill., OTR plant and the maintenance group at the La Vergne tire facility was accepted.

"We understand that the USW objected to BFNT’s position that it could not agree to extend the contract provisions pertaining to plant protection.

"Decisions about plant staffing, production and other items must be based on market conditions and should not be guaranteed by contract, nor by contract extensions.

"Guaranteeing conditions such as these is incompatible with our need to make our North American tire production facilities globally competitive and profitable.

"In addition, BFNT has announced plans to close its Oklahoma City, Okla., tire plant by the end of the year due to continuing substantial losses, and extending these provisions for an indefinite period could make it impossible for the company to do what is necessary for the financial and competitive well being of the entire business."

BFNT officials say talks between the company and the union will be on recess starting July 21, "pending the outcome of negotiations" between the union and its target, Michelin North America Inc. The union also is in contract talks with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

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