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USWA negotiations: an update

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Contract talks between the United Steelworkers of America and tiremakers Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire LLC (BFNT) and Michelin Tire North America Inc. are on hold.

No new contract talks are planned between Bridgestone/Firestone and the USWA.

"We have not had a bargaining session since November, when the company tried to force (on us) a most unreasonable proposal," a union spokesman told mtdealer.com.

Union officials say BFNT's proposal does not follow the three-year contract struck with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. last September.

Steelworkers had voted to use the Goodyear agreement as a "pattern settlement" for the rest of the industry.

"We are ready, willing and able to continue negotiations," says Dan MacDonald, a Bridgestone/Firestone spokesman. "We have a standing invitation to union leadership to sit down and exchange ideas and reach a new contract that works for everybody.

"They walked away from the negotiations, not us. Obviously there were things we didn't like about their initial proposal, and things they didn't like about our counterproposal. The way to find common ground is to continue talking."

The Steelworkers also claim that BFNT "has no intention of investing" in American manufacturing. "All they're doing is demanding concessions in health care, contract language, hits on retirees, seniority rights -- real regressive stuff," said the union spokesman.

"Since 1999, we've invested $257 million dollars in the five tire plants represented by the USWA," said MacDonald. "We have the potential for a major new investment in Oklahoma City that's contingent on other factors. If we can resolve some of the issues in Oklahoma, we'd very much like to retool the plant and manufacture larger diameter tires."

Bridgestone/Firestone has seven tire manufacturing facilities in the U.S., five of which are unionized.

Meanwhile, contract talks between the union and Michelin North America have recessed.

A Michelin spokesperson said both parties are taking a break from the negotiations, a normal part of the process.

Three of Michelin's 10 domestic plants are unionized.

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