ABF Freight System intends to press its lawsuit against the Teamsters union in federal court and is not using its filing to pressure the union to negotiate a separate settlement, President and CEO Wesley Kemp said at a press conference Monday.
Industry analysts and industry observers have suggested ABF may be angling for an out-of-court settlement with the Teamsters on wage and benefit concessions. Kemp said no. “The speculation is inaccurate, our intent is to go to court,” he said at the National Industrial Transportation League’s annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
ABF wants a U.S. District Court in Arkansas to strike down three amendments to the National Master Freight Agreement signed by the Teamsters and YRC Worldwide. The less-than-truckload carrier is also seeking $750 million in damages. YRC and the Teamsters have until Nov. 24 to respond to ABF’s lawsuit, Kemp said.
The 2008 NMFA covered both YRC Worldwide’s national LTL carrier YRC, regional subsidiaries Holland and New Penn, and ABF Freight System, but Teamsters concessions to YRC Worldwide last year effectively split that contract.
“Our contention is that we have one agreement and neither the Teamsters nor YRC had a right to do side agreements,” he said, claiming ABF’s attempt to win a separate Teamsters amendment of its own earlier this year doesn’t invalidate that argument.
Labor costs at ABF are now more than 15 percent higher than those at YRC, according to a study by SJ Consulting Group. ABF had higher wages for new line-haul and pickup-and-delivery drivers than FedEx Freight, YRC and UPS Freight.
After the YRC concessions, it’s unclear whether the NMFA — which now comprises three YRC operating companies and ABF — can survive as a “national” contract. ABF withdrew from the NMFA bargaining unit in 2008 but later accepted the contract.
In effect, there are three contracts covering unionized LTL trucking — the original 2008 NMFA at ABF, which expires in 2013, YRC's amended contract, which runs until 2015, and a separate contract for the Teamsters at UPS Freight. Kemp didn't say whether ABF would press for an independent contract in 2013 — something it sought in 2008.
“Whether it’s one contract or three, I just want to see the playing field leveled,” he said.
Contact William B. Cassidy at email@example.com.