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Teamsters will vote on YRC Worldwide proposal

Updated: 2013-12-07T00:01:44Z

By MARK DAVIS

The Kansas City Star

Teamsters employees at YRC Worldwide Inc. will vote on a plan to extend and modify their current concessions-laden contract, union officials said Friday.

A statement from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said its negotiating committee made no recommendation on how to vote when ballots are mailed early next week.

“After much debate, local union officials voted to allow the company’s proposal to go before members so that they can cast a secret-ballot vote,” Tyson Johnson, co-chairman of the Teamsters freight industry negotiating committee, said in the statement.

The 26,000 Teamsters who work for the struggling Overland Park freight company will have roughly a month to weigh the offer and cast ballots.

Ballots will be counted “on or about” Jan. 8, the union said.

YRC said ahead of Friday’s decision that it planned a campaign to win approval for the proposal. On Sunday, the company will hold a conference call aimed at all of its Teamsters employees, according to a notice on a website YRC set up for the contract approval push.

YRC also said it would post “all of the latest details about the proposal” on the website over the weekend. It said managers plan to meet with employees at freight terminals in coming weeks to talk about the proposal and answer questions.

The Teamsters said the proposal would extend the current contract with “certain modifications” until March 31, 2019. It currently expires at the end of March 2015. The current agreement reduces employee pay by 15 percent and reduces some benefits and pension contributions from the company.

A copy of the proposal and a Teamsters summary of it were posted online by Teamsters for a Democratic Union.

The Teamster report said the offer replaces scheduled pay raises of 34 cents an hour with lump sum $750 payments in each of the next two years. Some employees also would see a pay freeze, the company would be able to hire other companies to handle some freight, vacation pay and attendance policies would change, and YRC would make profit sharing payments tied to an industry measure of how efficiently the company operates.

YRC has said it needs the contract extension and so far undisclosed changes to convince lenders to refinance more than $1.4 billion in debts that it can’t pay.

Friday’s statement from the Teamsters said YRC also plans to convert $200 million of its debt into stock, which would reduce its interest expenses. Reducing those costs is a potential benefit of refinancing the debts, the company has said.

Without the refinancing, YRC has said its future is in jeopardy. Chief executive James Welch has said some companies in YRC’s situation have declared bankruptcy.

“The union leadership believes that all our members who would be affected by the company proposal, or by the consequences the company says will occur if it is not approved, should have the right to decide their own destiny,” Johnson said in the statement.

Earlier this week, YRC said it had hired a brokerage firm to sell up to 3 million of the company’s shares. If successful, the sales could raise about $25 million to repay some of the debts.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com.

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