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Union OKs five-year labor deal with ABF Freight

By ArkansasOnline

This article was published June 28, 2013 at 8:17 a.m.

Teamsters union members have approved a new, five-year contract with ABF Freight System Inc. in Fort Smith, according to a late Thursday statement issued by the trucking firm.

The deal calls for a 7 percent pay cut for the first year, to be followed by pay raises of 2 percent for each of the next three years, then 2.5 percent the last year, recouping the loss by the end of the five-year contract.

ABF is the largest subsidiary of Arkansas Best Corp., ranked the nation’s 13th-largest freight carrier. Arkansas Best Chief Executive Judy McReynolds has said the contract would allow the company to restore profitability. Arkansas Best reported a net loss of $7.7 million for 2012 and $13.4 million for this year’s first quarter.

The proposed contract had been approved unanimously May 20 by leaders of 160 local Teamster unions that serve ABF, the Teamsters said at the time, paving the way for the vote. ABF said voter turnout was strong, with more than 6,100 voting of the more than 7,000 eligible.

In addition, 21 of the 27 supplements to the ABF National Master Freight Agreement passed, according to a statement on the International Brotherhood of Teamsters website.

“We understand the sacrifices our ABF members are making,” said Gordon Sweeton, co-chairman of the National ABF Negotiating Committee, said in the Teamsters' statement. “We will work on obtaining approval of those supplements that were not approved.”

ABF said the outstanding supplements to be approved don't affect the major economic terms of the deal.

"We are very pleased that our Teamster employees have ratified the ABF NMFA, which is a critical step to putting ABF back on the path to profitability while still preserving the best-paying jobs and benefits in the industry," ABF Freight System President and Chief Executive Officer Roy Slagle said. "We know this was a difficult decision for our union workforce, following many sacrifices made in recent years by our non-union employees, and we look forward to resolving the remaining supplements in the near term."

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