Freight Contract: Too Many Givebacks

January 10, 2008: The proposed tentative National Master Freight Agreement is headed for a vote.

This is a dangerous proposal that Teamsters should study carefully. The power is in the hands of the Teamsters who move the freight.

Unlimited “utility employees” in every terminal who will combine road, city, dock, and yard work, without regard to local union jurisdiction. Four-hour dock casuals paid $14, a rate frozen until 2013. The new-hire tiered wage is stretched out, from two years to three. The wage increase will not keep up with inflation.

There are positives in the contract, too. For example, when there are layoffs at a terminal and the average overtime per Teamster exceeds 10 hours per week, a fraction of the laid off Teamsters must be recalled to bring the average OT down to 10 hours.

But the negatives are serious, and threaten to drive our contract down to nonunion standards. That’s why the American Trucking Associations’ publication bragged about YRC winning the “flexibility” they wanted in this contract offer.

Here is an overview of the changes:

Utility Employees (Article 3): This is premium service on steroids, to cover the whole operation. There is no limit on the number of utility employees, who will work the city, dock, road and yard “in most, if not all locations” and will even do dock, yard or fueling at foreign terminals. Utility employees will be a separate list and paid $1 more per hour. The employer can schedule the work week starting Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, 5-8s or 4-10s; may have multiple start times during the week.

$14 Casuals (Article 3): Four-hour dock casuals paid $14 per hour for the life of the contract. Four-hour supplemental casuals shall not be counted when a local tallies excess casuals to require hiring.

Substitute Service (Article 29): A new section will allow employers to use nonunion line-haul trucking, up to four percent of total miles in 2008, then increasing yearly to nine percent of the total line-haul miles in 2012, to allow carriers to reduce railing to cut transit times. But Yellow, Roadway and ABF are already reducing railing. This will allow them to use nonunion road drivers, instead of increasing our road boards with Teamster jobs. This nonunion line haul must be with a “Preferred Company” that the union hopes to organize.

Wage Progression Lengthened: Teamster members across the country asked that the wage progression for new hires, many of them experienced Teamsters, be eliminated. Instead they made it worse: from two years to three years in length. For CDL holders, it is 85-90-95 percent over three years; for non-CDL holders it would be 70-75-80 percent of union scale. The only improvement is when a driver moves from one YRC company to another (one year progression).

Wages Would Fall Behind: Proposed wage increases of 50¢-40¢-45¢-40¢-45¢ (mileage of 1.25¢-1¢-1.125¢-1¢-1.125¢). This is an average of 1.9 percent a year. If inflation holds at three percent a year, we will lose $1.34 per hour in buying power over the life of this contract. That’s about $4,000 a year you’ll need to cut from your budget. With nonunion drivers’ wages increasing, will they pass ours?

Benefits: The contract provides $1 per hour each year to be divided between pension and health and welfare. We hope it will be enough, but we learned in the last contract that hope is not enough, especially in a five-year contract. If any official promises you “no benefit cuts” in this contract deal, ask them to put that in the form of a binding agreement.

Teamsters must work more days in order to qualify for benefits: three days (instead of two) a week in the Central States Fund, 100 hours a month (instead of 60) in the West.

Study the contract. Talk to your fellow workers. Make a choice. Cast your vote.

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