Teamster union locals representing 7,500 employees of ABF Freight Systems voted late last week to approve a two-year contract proposal that will be presented to the carrier when negotiations begin Dec. 18.
The proposed two-year duration, agreed to Nov. 29 at a meeting in Kansas City, is designed to coincide with the 2015 expiration date of the Teamsters contract with YRC Worldwide Inc., ABF's chief unionized rival. The language is likely to be rejected by the company, which will demand a lengthier contract period, according to a note from the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a dissident group that often clashes with union leadership, notably General President James P. Hoffa.
The proposal calls for a $1 per hour wage increase, per employee, during each of the next two years. ABF is also likely to reject that provision and will instead seek language asking for little or no wage hikes, TDU said.
In addition, the union has requested its pension, health, and welfare benefits be maintained at current levels. That is likely to be rejected as well, TDU said.
The current five-year compact expires March 31, but ABF would like a deal reached well before then.
Executives at ABF, a unit of Fort Smith, Ark.-based Arkansas Best Corp., have declined all comment on issues relating to the contract talks. Teamster officials have not replied to several requests for comment.
Meanwhile, TDU has reported that an agreement was reached in August between ABF and the Teamsters that would be tantamount to a contract concession for about 1,000 employees in 13 western states.
According to the group, ABF was contractually required on Aug. 1 to increase by $1 per hour, per employee, the union's combined pension and health and welfare benefits. Of the total amount, employees in the western states were to receive an additional 65 cents an hour for pension benefits and the remainder was to be allocated to health and welfare benefits.
Instead, the funds earmarked for pensions have been placed in an escrow account with the issue of the allocation to be settled in the contract talks, TDU said.
TDU said in a late November note that the rank-and-file did not vote on the language and that many were unaware of it until the group circulated the note on the eve of the Kansas City meeting.
Ken Paff, national organizer for the TDU, said any contractual language can't be modified while the contract is in force without a vote in the rank-and-file. Paff said, however, that because the funds are in an escrow account and not being spent elsewhere, labor would not have a strong legal case.