In a bid to unionize regional less-than-trucklood carriers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has agreed to a unique tentative contract that would create a lower pay scale for less-experienced drivers at the regional operations, according to informed sources.
Top officials from the IBT are scheduled to brief leaders of more than 40 union locals today on the "two-tiered" pact, the Teamsters' major bid to sign up drivers in a sector of the trucking industry where it has had little success up to now.The affected drivers under the plan would be paid using a formula based on the length of the haul and their experi- ence. Up to now, the Teamsters have insisted on a national pay standard for all drivers; while exceptions have been made to assist troubled carriers, the union has always insisted on maintaining the national pay scale.
The assembled local Teamster officials will be asked to authorize the two- tiered arrangement with Northwest Transport Service Inc., which is based in Commerce City, Colo.
According to a Northwest executive, "We're committed not to discuss it until the IBT can explain it to their locals." The pact, if approved, would apply to the 40 or so locals serving Northwest Transport, which operates more than 50 terminals in the Midwest and South.
The contract was worked out under the direction of Ron Carey, IBT president, who Tuesday said it could serve as a "model" for other LTL carriers the union is seeking to organize, including Con-Way Transportation Services Inc.'s regional carriers.
James Carrington, director of freight for the IBT's southern conference, said the contract would allow newer drivers to be paid about $2 less per hour than the current base pay of $16.78. Health and welfare benefits would remain the same for all drivers.
Newly hired Teamsters would be allowed to work their way up to the higher wage scale through a calculation based on the ratio of regional freight to long-haul freight the company or the driver hauls, he said. A lower scale would be allowed for regional freight loads, he added.
Should Teamster officials agree to the regional contract, it would be presented to the union's rank and file within 30 days, and could be put into effect by the end of next month, Mr. Carrington said.
Historically, local Teamsters have often "bent" the National Master Freight Agreement with smaller companies that are struggling to stay alive. At the urging of the locals, the international has quietly turned a blind eye to these "white paper," or "sweetheart," agreements. The contract with Northwest Transport would mark the first time the international has officially sanctioned modification of the single wage structure for the LTL carriers.
Last spring, Yellow Freight System Inc. of Overland Park, Kan., unsuccessfully sought to negotiate a regional contract with the Teamsters that called for concessions in wages paid to new hires.
When the Teamsters said no, Yellow followed some of its competitors into the non-union regional arena, in part by purchasing operating authorities of the defunct Jones Truck Lines. Yellow also established small non-union operations in Texas and Tennessee and moved to purchase the nation's 15th- largest carrier, Preston Corp., which owns Saia Motor Freight Line, a fast growing nonunion LTL in Houma, La.
An official for a union LTL carrier, meanwhile, welcomed the IBT effort to organize nonunion regional carriers such as those owned by Consolidated
Freightways, Roadway Express and Yellow.
"The Big 3 are just constantly invading the south with their LTL approach, using non-union regional carriers," he said. A similar fight is developing in western New York, where older regional carriers have complained that the non- union regional carrier Con-Way Central Express has undercut their prices in expansion moves into that territory.
Con-Way officials respond that they are not seeking a competitive advantage through non-union expansion, but are only matching efforts of other nonunion regional carriers.