Teamsters union members at less-than-truckload (LTL) carrier YRC Worldwide Inc. on Saturday ratified a restructuring plan calling for workers to make additional wage and benefit concessions that Teamsters leadership said were necessary to save the company.
Under the agreement, the current contract covering about 25,000 YRC Teamsters will be extended for two years beyond its original March 31, 2013, expiration date. Union and non-contract employees have agreed to 15-percent wage cuts in 2014 and 2015; those concessions were to have expired in March 2013.
YRC's contributions to the Teamster pension plan, which were originally set to resume in January 2011, will be deferred to June 2011. (The contributions had been suspended under a deal struck last year.) When they resume, the contributions will be approximately one-fourth of the hourly rate in place when the contributions were suspended in 2009. At the time, the hourly rate was $7.00, meaning that starting next year, workers will receive pension contributions equivalent to about $1.75 per hour.
In late September, it was disclosed that as part of the agreement, William D. Zollars, YRC's chairman and CEO, would retire once the company's restructuring was completed and a new CEO was named. Zollars, 62, has run YRC since 1999. YRC said it is looking within and outside the company for a successor. Labor sources said Zollars' departure was a pre-condition to the union's accepting any additional concessions.
Union workers at the YRC operating unit—which includes YRC National and YRC Regional—approved the agreement by a 62-38 margin. The same margin held for YRC's USF Holland regional unit. Workers at the company's New Penn Motor Express regional unit ratified the agreement by a 69-31 margin. About two-thirds of YRC's Teamster members cast ballots.
Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters National Freight Division, said the plan "is the only hope for saving our members' jobs as this recession continues to cause so much hardship."
After union leaders announced last month that they had negotiated the agreement, Johnson warned that without rank and file approval, there would be "no doubt [YRC] will go out of business." The rank and file had been expected to ratify the agreement, largely because they wanted to take no chances that the company might fold if they didn't.
The agreement "positions our company for improved performance by providing a long-term market-competitive cost structure as well as enhanced efficiency to meet the demands of today's transportation and supply chain customers," said Mike Smid, president of YRC Inc. and chief operations officer of YRC Worldwide, in a statement. The concessions in the agreement are expected to save YRC about $350 million a year. Under the agreement, YRC will be required to either raise $300 million in new equity by Dec. 31 or have lenders convert an equivalent amount in debt to equity in the company.