By Patrick Raleigh, ERJ On-line news editor
Brussels-Unions are asking Bridgestone Corp.'s top management in Tokyo to step in to end a bitter dispute at its Buenos Aires tyre plant. The group's Argentinian management is refusing to reinstate 73 workers, sacked last October in a dispute over rationalistion and union recognition at the plant.
The dispute began when management refused representatives of the Sindicato Unico de Trabejadores del Neumatico Argentina (SUTNA) union entry to the plant, according to a Bridgestone Americas Holding spokeswoman. The company subsequently tabled plans to invest $50 million in the plant and scaled back operations to six days a week from seven, resulting in 65 layoffs, she said.
However, Argentina's Labour Ministry has since ordered that the workers be reinstated with backpay, but the company is ignoring this ruling, according to Dick Blin, a spokesman for the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM).
Brussels-based ICEM is now asking Bridgestone's senior management in Japan to intervene in the dispute, Blin said in a 12 Jan telephone interview. Talks, he said, are being carried out via ICEM's Japanese affiliate GOMU (the Japanese rubber workers union confederation).
Last year a similar ICEM/GOMU appeal to Bridgestone headquarters helped to prevent a threatened lock out at Bridgestone Australia, according to the ICEM spokesman.
â€œBridgestone gives a lot of autonomy to its businesses around the world and the Tokyo headquarters is often not fully aware of what is going on in some regions,â€ said Blin.
Another factor in the Buenos Aires dispute is that last year Bridgestone's Argentian operations began reporting to Bridgestone Firestone management in North America, the ICEM man suggested.