Trucking negotiations resumed yesterday in Kansas City, Mo., with Teamsters union and industry sources confident that they could reach early agreement on a new national freight contract.
The current three-year National Master Freight Agreement covering 300,000 Teamsters expires March 31. Union sources said yesterday that the talks, which have been conducted under a news blackout since they began in earnest last Dec. 1, probably will yield a tentative settlement early next month.
Negotiations "will go on through the month and into February," said a union source, explaining that the current round of talks will be interrupted by the Teamsters executive board meeting in San Francisco, Jan. 19 through Jan. 21. The source said negotiations were proceeding smoothly Dec. 18, when they were recessed for the Christmas holidays.
"No roadblocks or hurdles were thrown up in the process," nor were the talks impeded by Teamster President Roy Williams' bout with the flu during negotiations last month, the union source said.
Technical matters, working out the mechanics to fit the overall design of what some union and industry sources call a basic agreement in principle, are consuming much of the negotiators' time and energy, another union source said.
"In terms of just working out the language and things like that, they have a lot of things to do," said the second union source. "They're still touching bases."
The agreement in principle considers the publicly, mutually expressed desire by Teamsters union and industry officials to keep 1982 straight wage increases at a minimum. As described last month, and reported unchanged yesterday, proposals now on the table would substitute cost-of-living protection for most fixed wage increases.
Employment security provisions are a major concern of rank-and-file Teamsters who have lost more than 100,000 jobs since 1980 in the ailing trucking industry. But negotiators for Trucking Management, Inc., the industry bargaining arm, have been pushing for work rule changes that could yield more layoffs. One such proposal, for example, would allow long-distance drivers to bypass city transfer points and deliver their loads directly to a receiver, thereby eliminating the need for many local drivers.
Williams vowed at the beginning of the talks "to do what is best for our members and their families in the best way we know how." As negotiators, he said, "We want to keep those who are working on the job and we would like to get those who have been laid off back on the job."
But dissident union members, represented by the Teamsters for a Democratic Union and citing their own "confidential sources" in the negotiations, publicly have accused their leadership of--so far, at least--yielding to industry demands for direct delivery.