Talks Between ABF, Teamsters to Continue; Existing Deal Expires March 31

Negotiations between ABF Freight System Inc. and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will resume next week.

Both entities released statements in advance of resuming talks Monday, noting that they were getting closer to reaching an agreement. ABF, a subsidiary of Fort Smith’s Arkansas Best Corp., noted in a release that negotiations could be extended past the March 31 expiration of their existing deal as long as they continue to work together in “good faith.”

“Through hard bargaining on both sides of the table, we are comprehensively addressing the first set of substantive issues on various operational needs to help ABF better compete,” the ABF statement said.

“Work on those operational issues continues and we look forward to continued discussions in the coming weeks on specific economic terms that remain.”

ABF has agreed to negotiate from the existing contract after first looking to scrap the existing deal. Currently the Teamsters and ABF are operating under the National Master Freight Agreement and 15 supplemental contracts.

Following a Jan. 7 meeting the two sides were “far apart.” ABF said in January it was seeking a single contract to help lower expenses through uniformity in cost structure, time off, scheduling, benefits and other areas related to the company’s 7,500 Teamster employees across the United States.

At that time CEO Judy McReynolds said ABF would consider closing terminals and distribution centers as a cost-cutting measure.

Teamster’s negotiating committee co-chair Gordon Sweeton released a statement and said the two sides had found common ground on noncontroversial issues.

“We think it is a step in the right direction that the company has agreed to bargain from the existing contract and address proposals in a more traditional manner,” Sweeton said. “But with just a month to go before expiration, the company needs to get realistic on the core issues that remain open.”