ABF Freight Systems and the Teamsters, who were unable to agree to a long-term contract, have hammered out a contract extension through May 31.
The carrier had been striving for cost reductions, and though the Teamsters recognized publicly the need to reduce costs, the union representatives have not accepted any of the carrier’s offers.
“We have taken a balanced approach to the negotiations and have specifically avoided proposing the meat-axe wage and benefit cuts that our competitors have been forced to adopt,” according to a statement on the ABF Website. “Our goal has been to achieve the bulk of the cost reductions through changes in work rules and flexibility, but there is more to do.”
According to ABF officials, the stipulations outlined in the previous contract could not be carried forward in the new agreement because they helped produce $250 million in losses in the last three years.
The Teamsters recently released a contract update, saying ABF is still demanding big cuts in health care and pensions along with a 6.5-percent pay reduction. In the new plan, employees who worked fewer than 130 hours a month would receive no health care benefits, and employees who did reach that threshold would see increased out-of-pocket costs with reduced benefits.
“While we’ve made progress on major local and over-the-road work rule issues over the last few months, the company’s new proposals this week are very disappointing and place our progress at risk,” the Teamster’s Gordon Sweeton said in the bulletin. “We’ve put millions of dollars worth of operational relief on the table, but that apparently is not enough.”
ABF began talks with the Teamsters in January to strike a deal before the current collective bargaining agreement expired on March 31. An agreement wasn’t reached by that deadline, so the parties agreed to an extension, which was to expire at the end of April. - Jon Ross