The United Rubber Workers, making little if any progress in resolving contract disputes with Uniroyal Inc., indicated yesterday it may strike if there isn't a breakthrough by the weekened.
URW and Uniroyal bargainers agreed before recessing last night to meet today. But neither side claimed a settlement was imminent, and the union continued to press its charge that Uniroyal reneged on a settlement last week under pressure from government inflation fighters.
"It can't be more than few days, it just can't hang out there," said URW President Peter Bommarito as he arrived for a second day of face-to-face bargaining wiht the company at Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service offices here.
But as the talks stretched into the evening, chief federal mediator Wayne L. Horvitz said no one had suggested any change in the union's day-to-day suspension of strike action. He said the two sides were still sorting out areas of agreement and disagreement and described the job as "tough."
The rubber talks, which were reportedly far from a resolution as yesterday's discussions began, have emerged as the most difficult test thus far for the Carter administraton's anti-inflation guidelines.
The White House interceded in the negotiations last week after the union claimed it was on the verge of a guideline-busting settlement with Uniroyal and two other companies-an assertion later denied by the companies. Bommarito has accused the government of joining with industry officials to force Uniroyal to back off.
The union's proposed package would have increased wages and benefits by an average of about 40 percent over three years for the "Big Four" rubber companies, according to government officials. This far exceeds the nominal wage-benefit standard of 7 percent annually, or 22.5 percent compounded over three years.
The percentage increase would be less ofr Uniroyal, reportedly about 30 percent, because it has a higher total compensation base than the other three companies, officials said. But, even for Uniroyal, the package would exceed the guidelines.
Moreover, Uniroyal and the URW are still at odds over what had been agreed to last week. Some highcost items are in dispute, including an enriching of the cost-of-living payment formula and early retirement provisions.
Uniroyal, with 8,200 of the union's 55,000 workers at the four companies, is considered financially more vulnerable than the others. The union has been working without a contract since Friday and has pointed to Uniroyal as its likely target if a strike is called.
Bommarito told reporters yesterday a "speedier resolution" of the contract dispute could be achieved if the government would relax its guideline-compliance pressure. But he said he sees no signs of this happening, although he did hint he expected "some change in position," apparently menaing a move by industry bargainers. Uniroyal officals were unavailable for comment.
One source close to the talks indicated there was some bargaining leeway in achieving higher productivity through work rules changes, thereby permitting some cost insurance that would not be counted against the guidelines.
For Uniroyal, this reportedly amounted to roughly half the union's proposed 58-cent hourly wage increase for the first year of the contract, or about one-quarter of the total $1.14 increase over three years. But the productivity issue has not yet been negotiated with other companies, and the impact on total costs is not yet clear, sources said. Industry officials were reported to be discussing the productivity question with government anti-inflation officials yesterday.
Rubber workers currently earn about $8 an hour in wages. Total compensation, industrywide, is calculated for guideline purposes at $11.53 an hour.