Teamster drivers and warehouse workers have ratified a new contract agreement granting major wage and benefits concessions to the nation's trucking industry..
The vote marks the second time in two days that a major union has agreed to sacrifice hard-won benefits in return for job security. In voting that ended Sunday night, United Auto Workers union members at Ford Motor Co. accepted a $600-million to $1 billion concessions agreement by a 73 percent margin.
Roy L. Williams, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, yesterday hailed his union's new 37-month pact as "a strong and promising settlement." However, neither union nor trucking industry officials were willing to attach a price tag to the concessions agreement yesterday.
The Teamsters contract, which limits pay increases to a once-a-year increase in cost of living allowances, takes effect immediately. It was approved by a vote of 82,571 to 51,620 in a two-week mail referendum that ended over the weekend.
Under union bylaws peculiar only to the Teamsters union, a tentative agreement may be ratified by one-third of the members voting. Some 300,000 Teamsters--including about 50,000 laid-off members--are covered by the new National Master Freight Agreement. A total of 134,191 of the affected members voted.
Williams called the ratification margin "overwhelming." Arthur H. Bunte Jr., president of Trucking Management, Inc., the bargaining arm for 6,500 domestic carriers, also praised "the overwhelmingly approved new contract settlement."
Leaders of the nearly 9,000-member rebel group, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, disagreed.
"We feel that the contract is a bad one that will cost us a lot of jobs," said TDU spokesman Ken Paff. He said the contract will weaken the union's position in upcoming bargaining with United Parcel Service.
The current average hourly basic wage for Teamster truckers is $12.96. That basic wage will remain fixed under the terms of the new agreement. Wage increases will come only through annual boosts cost-of-living allowances (COLA).
But even the COLA payment, from one perspective, has been reduced. COLA came twice-a-year under the old agreement. Besides coming only once annually under the new pact, a part of the COLA will be split off to help pay workers' health and welfare benefits.