A 7 percent wage reduction, but no major cuts to health or pension benefits are amid the details of the tentative contract between less-than-truckload carrier ABF and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters released in anticipation of a union-wide vote on the proposal.
The IBT negotiating committee has approved the deal, but union members will receive contract ballots on June 3.
The two parties reached a five-year agreement in early May after two, month-long contract extensions to the previous deal, which ended March 31. The two sides began negotiations in January. Until now, the Teamsters had been keeping a tight lid on details of the agreement.
After much hand wringing about the elimination of benefits, a Teamsters spokesman said the final contract leaves existing benefits intact.
“Our members’ number one goal was to protect their health, welfare and pension benefits, and we achieved this despite all the financial challenges the company is facing,” said Gordon Sweeton, co-chairman of the National ABF Negotiating Committee. “We also protected good Teamster freight jobs.”
According to the contract proposal, union employees will be hit with an immediate 7 percent reduction in wages, which will be earned back in 2 percent increments over the next three years. Wages will go up by 2.5 percent in the last year of the contract. Employees will also lose one week of vacation time, receive the minimum pension contributions required to maintain current benefits, and see the elimination of local grievance panels. Coffee breaks will be reduced from 15 minutes to 10 minutes for most employees.
One article in the new contract outlines the carrier’s use of audio and video tracking to make sure employees are not “stealing time” on the job. The surveillance can be used as cause for termination.
The agreement also includes a profit-sharing bonus if ABF’s operating ratio passes 96 percent.
“Nobody ever wants to see a pay cut, but in light of the company’s struggles and our desire to see the company survive, something needed to be done,” Sweeton said. “It is in our best interests, as well as ABF’s, that this company be given a chance to climb out of this deep recession so that our members’ futures are protected.”
As IBT and ABF agreed on a tentative contract, news leaked out that YRC had approached Arkansas Best earlier in the year about buying ABF for an undisclosed amount. ABF told YRC officials that it was not the right time for a merger. - Jon Ross