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Teamsters accept contract despite opposition.

Despite widespread opposition from union members, leaders of the Teamsters union accepted a 3-year contract with the three major associations of trucking and warehousing companies. Of the 100,883 votes cast by the union members, 64,101 or 63.5 percent were against the accord. Teamsters' president Jackie Presser informed union members, upon submission of the terms, that union leaders would, for the first time, invoke a 1961 constitutional change permitting acceptance of a contract if less than two-thirds of the members vote against the terms. Presser said that the action was necessary because the "industry is in financial chaos, . . . and that this proposed agreement addresses the economic needs of our members and advances their legitimate claims for job security."

Opposition to the settlement was led by Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a dissident group of Teamster members that has long opposed the union's leadership and its policies. The organization initiated a court test of the 1961 constitutional change. In addition, the group called the negotiated terms "unsatisfactory." Kenneth Paff, organizer of the group, said the accord did not provide for adequate wage increases; a return to the pay progression schedule that prevailed prior to the 1985 settlement; a limit on the use of casual, lower paid workers; a ban on employers engaging in "double breasting" operations under which they establish separate facilities and fleets of trucks operated by nonunion employees; and adequate repayment guarantees to employees voting to loan part of their earnings to their employer.

The new contract, running to March 31, 1991, provides for a guaranteed wage increase of 35 cents effective April 1, 1988, followed by possible increases of up to 3 5 cents an hour on April I of 1989 and 1990. The 1988 and 1989 increases will be calculated at I cent an hour (.25 mill per mile for drivers paid on a mileage basis) for each 0.3 -point movement in the BLS CPI-W (1967 = 100) during the preceding 12 months. The 3-year agreement negotiated in 1985 provided for three 50-cent-an-hour wage increases (or the equivalent increase in mileage rates), each including a 31-cent "cost-of-living adjustment" not actually linked to the movement of the CPI. At the March 31, 1988, termination date of the 1985 accord, the standard pay rate was $14.71 an hour for drivers with 3 years' service.

The revised pay progression schedule under the 1988 contract provides for new employees to start at 85 percent of the standard or top rate, move to 90 percent after 6 months' service, 95 percent after 12 months' service and to the standard rate after 18 months' service. Previously, new employees started at 70 percent of the standard rate and moved to 80 percent after 1 year, to 90 percent after 2 years, and to the standard rate after 3 years.

Under the new loan plan, employers in financial difficulty can ask their employees to accept wage reductions of up to 15 percent. If 75 percent of the involved employees approve the reduction, it will apply to all of the employees. In return, employees could be covered by profit-sharing or stock ownership plans.

Casual employees, who had been shifted to a lower pay rate under the 1985 settlement, will receive the same wage increases as other employees, bringing their rate to $13.05 after the April 1990 increase. Casuals, reportedly comprising 10 percent of the work force, do not receive benefits.

Employer financing of pension and health and welfare benefits was increased by 35 cents an hour on April 1, 1988, and by 20 cents on April 1 of 1989 and 1990. Regional committees will allocate the 75 cents an hour between the two types of benefits.

Other provisions include:

A requirement that employees drawing workers' compensation perform duties within their capabilities and be paid at least $5 an hour. If the employees refuse, their workers' compensation payments will be terminated.

A requirement that employees who commit "willful gross negligent acts" assume financial responsibility for any resulting losses, damage, or theft.

A requirement that drivers with higher than usual insurance risk ratings pay the premium costs in excess of normal premiums.

The first of the three similar accords negotiated by the Teamsters was with Trucking Management Inc., comprising about 34 larger interstate companies with about 100,000 covered employees. The other associations are Regional Carriers Inc., and the Motor Carrier Labor Advisory Council, with a combined total of about 60,000 employees.

According to the Teamsters, ithas lost 120,000 members in the industry since deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980. The loss was attributed to the closing or acquisition of 78 Teamsters-organized carriers.
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Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Jul 1, 1988
Previous Article:Chrysler pact returns to parity with GM, Ford.
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