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Union talks with Yokohama, bargains with CTNA and remains at 11-month-old stalemate with BFNT

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Contract talks have started between the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) and Yokohama Tire Corp. regarding Yokohama´s Salem, Va., plant, while the union continues to discuss with Continental Tire North America Inc. (CTNA) the suspension of tire production at the company´s Mayfield, Ky., factory.

However, no new talks are scheduled between Steelworkers and Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire LLC (BFNT).

Negotiations with Yokohama are "in their early stages," according to USWA spokesman Wayne Ranick. Yokohama and the union are exchanging proposals.

Yokohama´s contract expired in June 2003, says Ranick. About 850 Salem employees have been working under an extended contract since then.

The USWA is emphasizing job security provisions in its talks with Yokohama.

Meanwhile, Steelworkers are engaging in "effects bargaining" with CTNA regarding the Mayfield plant. "There were some meetings earlier this week," says Ranick.

CTNA is moving forward with plans to suspend tire production at the facility by the end of the year, which will lead to the elimination of some 700 hourly positions.

"We´re trying to see what the transition (will be like.) I think it´s always been their intent to close that facility for who knows how long."

CTNA officials say the factory is its most expensive plant to run.

CTNA´s existing contract with the USWA expires in 2006. Thirteen months ago, a "reopener clause" in the agreement went into effect that would allow preliminary discussions between the two parties.

"We haven´t had reopener talks yet," says Ranick. Reopener talks generally cover wage and pension issues.

Negotiations with BFNT remain at a stalemate. The union walked away from the bargaining table last November after rejecting a BFNT counterproposal.

Five BFNT tire manufacturing facilities are operating on a day-to-day contract. They include Des Moines, Iowa; Warren County, Tenn.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; La Vergne, Tenn.; and a plant in Akron, Ohio, that builds racing tires. BFNT´s Bloomington, Ill., plant is unionized, but not part of the company´s master contract with the USWA.

"We´re hopeful we can get back to the table sooner than later," says BFNT spokesman Dan MacDonald.

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