By Patrick Raleigh, ERJ On-line news editor
Brussels-Argentina's labour minister Carlos Tomado on 19 Feb ordered Bridgestone/Firestone to reinstate around 90 workers who were sacked from its Buenos Aires tyre plant last October, according to ICEM (International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions).
The tyre company's management must also enter negotiations with their trade union, Sindicato Unico de Trabajadores del Neumatico Argentina (SUTNA), Brussels-based ICEM added in a press statement
Bridgestone/Firestone's US-based managment has so far ignored a similar ruling made 5 Dec by the Labour Ministry for the state of Buenos Aires.
The dispute was triggered when Bridgestone/Firestone management refused representatives of the SUTNA union entry to the plant. 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.
The union claims that the company's decisions were in breach of an agreement signed in 2001, at the height of a currency crisis in Argentina. Under the deal workers agreed pay cuts of up to 25-percent pay cut in return for job security and union bargaining rights, said ICEM.
In January, ICEM asked Bridgestone's senior management in Japan to intervene in the dispute, via its Japanese affiliate GOMU (the Japanese rubber workers union confederation).