Transport Firm Changes May Force Employees To Move On

January 6, 2006: Greenville's Roadway Express facility is losing a significant number of jobs as the company realigns its business to better reflect traffic patterns and reduce transit times, said Michael J. Smid, the company's president and chief executive officer. Although Smid declined to say how many positions would be affected, a local union official put the number at more than 200 jobs.

Skip Barnett, a Teamsters Local Union No. 28 business agent who works with freight contracts, said the union expects to whittle that number to about 200 positions and added that union employees would be allowed to move with the work.

"This is a lot of middle-class jobs for the Upstate to lose," Barnett said.

Salaries for Roadway's long-haul drivers -- among those affected -- average between $60,000 and $85,000 annually, Smid said.

"If you take this by itself, it's bad, but you can handle it," said Bill Pendleton, area manager of the state Employment Security Commission's Greenville office. "If you look at the big picture -- what's been happening for the past year or two -- it's concerning. But as tough as we have it, we're still below the state average" when it comes to unemployment.

Greenville County reported an unemployment rate of 5.8 percent in November, compared with 7.1 percent joblessness for the state as a whole.

Roadway's Greenville facility, which presently has more than 300 employees, has both a consolidation and distribution unit and a local delivery unit, Smid said. Roadway Express is eliminating the consolidation and distribution function in Greenville.

Barnett said between 80 and 85 employees represented by the union would remain at the facility. A few office workers and supervisors not covered by the union contract also would continue to work there.

"Greenville is part of a change in our national transportation network," Smid said. "The change is an effort to improve the speed, the reliability and the efficiency" of the company's service and to reduce the amount of cargo handling.

The greatest impact of realignment would be felt at the company's terminals in Hagerstown, Md., and Greenville. They will "continue being facilities and operations, but their scale will change," Smid told TrafficWorld, an industry-related magazine.

More than 1,000 people nationwide will be affected by the changes, he said. Affected employees in Greenville include drivers, freight-handling professionals, supervisory personnel and support personnel.

"In each change of operations, we are repositioning our people, our resources and our assets to match changes we have seen in traffic patterns," Smid said.

Roadway plans to reduce freight handling in the Northeast and deliver to distances of 1,000 miles in two days or less. Coast-to-coast deliveries will be made in no more than four days. Deliveries from the central part of the country to the West Coast will take three days.

Although no changes have been implemented yet, the restructuring will be completed in the first quarter, Smid said.

He said the realignment will not reduce the size of the overall work force, and Barnett said the company probably would hire about 40 additional drivers. About 30 locations will gain employees as work is moved to there.

"Anybody who is working under a contract is being allowed to follow their work if they wish," Barnett said, who added the company would pay moving expenses.

Smid said that employees also have the option to move to the local delivery unit if jobs are available.

Barnett said workers who choose not to leave Greenville would be placed on layoff and are eligible for recall for five years. He said any of those employees also would be eligible to be hired at other unionized carriers in the area and must be considered before other applicants.

Smid said the company's work agreement does not include a severance package because the employees are subject to recall.

Barnett said he believes that anyone who wants similar work in the region would be able to find it even though trucking is a little slow this time of year.

Although some union members are upset about the Roadway restructuring, about half of Greenville's work came to the area the same way years ago, he said.

Roadway Express has initiated the required legal notifications to the Teamsters Union and state agencies, Smid said.

Pendleton said the state Department of Commerce's Rapid Response Team has been notified by Roadway of the change of operations. Employment Security Commission personnel hope to meet with employees soon to explain unemployment insurance benefits, other services and what they can expect in the job market here.

The job situation is not as good as it could be, he said.

"I hope we will see a better 2006 than 2005," Pendleton said."

Reprinted from The Greenville News, January 6, 2006
By Jenny Munro
/jmunro [at] greenvillenews.com">jmunro [at] greenvillenews.com


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