ABF, Teamsters agree to tentative five-year contract

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 139 views 

ABF Freight System and the Teamsters announced late Friday (May 3) they had reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract.

The next step will include the Teamsters and company officials educating union members about the terms of the contract. The contract will eventually face a vote of qualified union members.

Neither side would release details on the agreement.

Coming to terms on a new labor contract with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has been tough. The existing labor contract between ABF and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was initially set to expire March 31 for the about 7,500 Arkansas Best employees represented by the Teamsters.

Negotiations and the contract have twice been extended, with the recent extension set to expire May 31. The Teamsters issued a statement on April 19 suggesting that new proposals from Arkansas Best have put the negotiations “at risk.” But the company has argued that wage concessions are necessary to ensure future profitability. ABF is a a subsidiary of Fort Smith-based Arkansas Best Corp.

ABF officials released the following statement on Friday.
“We are very pleased to announce that the ABF and Teamster negotiating teams have reached a tentative agreement on a contract for the next five years.

“The agreement is in the best interests of ABF union employees and meets our stated goals to:
• Maintain the best-paying jobs in the freight industry
• Stay in our current pension funds
• Ensure our employees have great benefits
• Adapt to the changing needs of our customers
• Put ABF on a path of profitability to secure jobs and retirement benefits, now and in the future

“Details will be forthcoming. In the interim, we will continue to serve our customers in the fast and efficient manner they have come to expect from ABF, as it will remain business as usual through the ratification process.

“We thank the negotiating teams for their hard work over many months in reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.”

An April 19 statement from the Teamsters indicated that new proposals from Arkansas Best included:
• A 6.5% wage reduction;
• The elimination of coverage for employees working fewer than 130 hours in a month;
• Employee co-pays including a $240 per month employee contribution for family coverage;
• Significant increases in out-of-pocket employee costs; and,
• Overall reduced benefits.

Teamsters officials were dismissive of the proposals.

ABF officials frequently used the following statement to explain what they wanted out of a new contract.
“As we have said throughout the course of the negotiations, here are our goals:
1. To maintain the best-paying jobs in the freight industry.
2. To stay in our current pension funds.
3. To ensure our employees have great benefits.
4. To adapt to the changing needs of our customers, who ultimately decide the fate of our jobs and company.
5. To put ABF on a path of profitability to secure jobs and retirements, now and in the future.”

Also, the five-year length of the contract staggers future negotiations so that they will not coincide with labor negotiations between the YRC, the largest competitor to ABF, and the Teamsters.