Teamsters expected to give trucking firms more concessions to save jobs

By , Labor correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, worried about the competition its unionized employers face from nonunion truckers, is expected to reopen labor agreements in an effort to reduce operating costs. The goal: to recapture lost business and jobs.

Union and trucking industry officials were reported close to an agreement during the weekend after several weeks of meetings between IBT President Jackie Presser, and Arthur H. Bunte Jr. of the employers' Trucking Management Inc.

If approved, the new concessions - the second round in 16 months - would apply to the wages and benefits of workers rehired from the ranks of about 100, 000 jobless truckers, one-third of the normal employment in the industry. They would be paid less per mile (22 cents instead of the 32 cents being paid to those now working), would lose the cost-of-living protection others have, and would also lose some paid sick leave and pay for waiting and repair time.

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The negotiations are the first major test for Mr. Presser, who assumed the IBT presidency April 21. When he took office, he said that the unions should cooperate to hold down wage and benefit costs averaging $18.30 an hour to help employers weather the recession, deregulation of the trucking industry, and growing competition from nonunion trucking companies - and thereby save jobs.

The union had hoped that its 1982 contract settlement, which raised employer labor costs only 15 percent over 37 months, was cheap enough to help unionized companies regain lost business. However, troubles persisted in the unionized part of the industry. Dozens of small carriers went out of business while others pared or reduced losses and stayed in business only through cost-cutting concessions from their IBT locals.

Teamsters dissidents already have warned that they will oppose further concessions to employers. Although the majority of unionized truckers would not be directly affected, rank and file opposition could scuttle any agreement.

The move by the union, the largest and one of the strongest in the country, is the latest attempt by a major labor organization to work with troubled employers competing with companies that are not bound by union contracts. Most of the nonunion operators meet union wages and provide many of the benefits in labor contracts, but don't have to comply with costly work rules and practices.

Construction unions and their employers have been hurt by ''open shop'' or nonunion work in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, portions of the South, and other parts of the country. Tens of thousands of union jobs have been lost and the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department and the National Construction Employer Council have just launched a joint ''market recovery program'' to try to regain lost work.

Coal mining has also shifted significantly to nonunion operations and employers have been seeking wage benefits and rules concessions from the United Mine Workers to reduce operating costs.

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