Negotiators for the United Rubber Workers and B.F. Goodrich Co. indicated yesterday they will enter make-it-or-break-it negotiations today in hopes of reaching a prompt settlement of the industry's long-stalled contract dispute.
URW and Goodrich bargainers reported progress in talks over the last two days and said they should know by late today or tomorrow whether an agreement is within reach.
The URW-Goodrich talks have held out the first hope for a bargaining breakthrough since the union struck Uniroyal Inc. May 9 after charging the company with reneging on an agreement under pressure from Carter administration inflation fighters.
After subsequent talks between the URW and Uniroyal got nowhere, federal mediators called the union and Goodrich to Washington for exploratory talks aimed at opening a second bargaining front.When the preliminary talks went well, it was decided to engage in formal negotiations, at least through Thursday.
Unlike Uniroyal bargainers, Goodrich negotiators have carefully tiptoed around the wage guidelines, saying they are cognizant of them but have other obligations as well. Both Goodrich and URW officials said the guidelines, which call for wage and benefit increases of no more than 7 percent a year, have not been discussed at the bargaining table.
A Goodrich settlement above the guidelines - especially if it became the pattern for the whole industry - could deal another blow to the administration's already faltering anti-inflation program.
The negotiators will recess briefly this afternoon to hear arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals over a lower court's ruling that the government cannot legally impose economic sanctions on guideline violators. Then they are to return to the table for what is expected to be a long night of intensive negotiations.
Although 8,300 workers are on strike against Uniroyal, the URW's 47,000 other rubber workers are staying on the job, under a contract extension, at Goodrich, Goodyear and Firestone. Their old contract expired April 20.