Teamsters, ABF continue labor negotiations

Austin Alonzo
Kansas City Business Journal
January 21, 2013

Negotiations between ABF Freight Systems Inc. and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters continued in Kansas City this week, and the two parties are no closer to an agreement, a release from the union said.

The parties recessed on Wednesday afternoon after making little progress toward a deal. Talks between ABF, a subsidiary of Arkansas Best Corp. (Nasdaq: ABFS), and representatives of ABF's 7,500 union employees are not scheduled to resume until Jan. 28.

The current agreement between the less-than-truckload carrier and the Teamsters expires March 31.

ABF, based in Little Rock, Ark., seeks an agreement similar to its chief unionized rival, Overland Park-based YRC Worldwide Inc. (Nasdaq: YRCW), to cut its labor costs. The company faces pressure to reach an agreement as soon as possible, before its clients begin to seek out a new logistics provider, according to Ken Paff, the national organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union.

In a release, the union said ABF isn't budging on its demands to cut labor costs by increasing the use of split-shifts, part-timers, and subcontractors; reducing vacations and holidays; eliminating supplements; and asking workers to work across classifications.

In return, the union wants an extra dollar an hour in pay each year, among other benefits.

The union maintains that ABF's measures are an attempt to violate the National Master Freight Agreement. ABF maintains that none of its competitors, namely YRC, follow the document, which was drafted in the 1960s.

The Teamsters asked for a breakdown of how exactly the measures would reduce ABF's labor costs, and ABF was not able to provide them, the release said. The company will "try to provide the information when negotiations resume," a release said.

"The failure of the Company to have the cost analysis of its specific proposals at its fingertips strongly suggests the Company was not prepared to engage in legitimate bargaining," Gordon Sweeton, co-chairman of the Teamsters' National ABF Negotiating Committee, said in a release. "Its proposal is simply an overreaching effort designed to bludgeon worker rights."

ABF has not released a statement on the situation since Dec. 21. Company representatives declined to comment.


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