by Gwen Moritz
Posted 4/29/2013 12:00 am
Arkansas Best Freight has extended its current contract with the Teamsters union through the end of May while the two parties try to reach a long-term agreement that ABF insists must include wage concessions.
“We can’t continue with the contract that produced $250 million in losses since 2009,” the company said.
ABF is a subsidiary of publicly traded Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith.
In a statement issued on April 19, ABF said its proposal would provide its union employees with “the best compensation package in the industry, certainly better than any alternative position they could get at another freight company and significantly better than our largest Teamster competitor, YRC.”
The Teamsters National ABF Negotiating Committee, in a competing statement, said ABF was “seeking an across-the-board 6.5 percent wage reduction as well as reductions in both the scope and level of health and welfare coverage available to employees.”
While ABF released no details of its proposals, the union said the company has proposed eliminating health insurance for employees who work fewer than 130 hours a month, asking employees to pay $240 per month for family coverage and otherwise increase health care costs.
The Teamsters said ABF had also proposed to reduce and cap the amount of contributions made “to most pension funds.”
By the following Monday, ABF had issued another statement designed to correct “misperceptions about our pension proposals that have been circulating.”
It is the company’s goal “to stay in every pension fund and ensure ABF’s long-term viability in order to continue contributing to the funds. We pay money into 25 different multiemployer pension funds.
“Nearly two-thirds of our Teamster employees are enrolled in plans that are currently in the ‘critical’ or ‘endangered’ zone. Withdrawal from the pension plans would expose ABF to potentially significant withdrawal liability, which would be counterproductive to our efforts to better align our costs with our competitors.”
In case that wasn’t clear enough, the company added: “It is not our intention, nor do we envison any scenario that would result in our withdrawal from any fund in which we are currently participating.”