Less-than-truckload company ABF Freight System and the Teamsters National Freight Industry Committee have exchanged contract proposals in anticipation of negotiations that will begin Jan. 7.
The parties are meeting to address the current union contract — covering 7,500 ABF employees — that expires March 31.
According to an ABF press release, the company’s goal in these negotiations is to lower costs, stemming the $230 million the company has lost since 2009, while becoming better able to compete in a shifting trucking industry. Non-union carriers, the company said, have done well, while hundreds of union carriers have disappeared.
In a newsletter sent to members, the union charges that ABF wants to reduce paid time off, replace the grievance procedure with arbitration, expand tracking-device use on trucks, move some jobs to part-time, expand subcontractor use, and eliminate supplemental agreements. After seeing the company’s contract aspirations, Gordon Sweeton, chairman of the union’s negotiating committee, implied negotiations may last a while.
“To say the least, this initial proposal from ABF is a real non-starter and will do nothing to advance the dialogue between the parties,” he said. “We know the company needs some relief, but this strategy is going nowhere fast with our committee.”
Sweeton allowed that the current environment has been tough on the trucking company. But he said that any hardships should be handled by all parties involved, not simply employees.
“We will not accept any proposals that are made solely on the backs of our members,” he said. “Teamsters have worked hard to make ABF successful. Management needs to understand this and respect our members’ efforts, not denigrate those efforts.”
ABF has said, in advance of the contract negotiations, the union is distributing misinformation about executive compensation; the union also apparently stated that it would only take 4-percent economic growth to fix the company’s problems. ABF said both of these statements are false. Compensation for the chief executive officer, according to a statement, was 40 percent less than CEO salaries at other firms, and ABF officer compensation adds up to less than half a percent in costs. The company alleged that the Teamster employees are at the highest pay levels in the LTL industry when total compensation is factored in.
If a new contract with reduced costs is not reached, ABF said it may have to close some terminals and distribution centers. - Jon Ross