Workplace

Teamsters approve revised contract with YRC Worldwide

Updated: 2014-01-27T05:53:50Z

By MARK DAVIS

The Kansas City Star

Teamsters workers on Sunday approved a revised contract offer from Overland Park-based YRC Worldwide Inc. with 66 percent of the vote, an outcome both sides called critical to the struggling freight hauler’s future.

The weekend vote at union balloting sites ran 12,267 in favor to 6,314 against. Passage followed a monthlong mail-in vote on an earlier offer that 61 percent had rejected.

“This was a very difficult vote for our members, but in the end they did what they believe will give this company the best chance to stay in business and protect their jobs,” Teamsters general president Jim Hoffa said in a release announcing the results. “Now we will hold management’s feet to the fire to make sure our members’ jobs are protected and redouble our efforts to make sure this company handles its finances responsibly.”

YRC chief executive James Welch said the approval gives the company the labor stability it needs to gain a badly needed refinancing of its debts. He also said the union leadership’s support was the difference in getting the revised pact approved.

“This was a big day for us,” Welch said. “I appreciate that the (Teamsters) leadership worked hard to get this done.”

Union and company officials both had said all the jobs of YRC’s more than 30,000 employees hung in the balance, not just the roughly 26,000 Teamsters who work there. YRC Worldwide, a Fortune 500 company, owes more than $1 billion it can’t repay, including $69.4 million due Feb. 15.

In proposing the revised offer, Welch had said it was the “best — and only remaining — path forward.”

Unlike the first proposal, the revised pact was backed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, whose leaders negotiated its terms.

A video posted on the union’s website said a yes vote would give the company a chance to survive. Rejection would prevent refinancing, lead to a default and “would within a matter of weeks likely trigger bankruptcy,” the video said.

Workers had rejected the original offer, which was proposed by the company without negotiating with the union.

The revised offer eliminated some concessions in the original offer and added new protections for workers.

With the vote, Teamsters workers agreed to extend into March 2019 the 15 percent pay cut they’ve lived with since 2009 as well as reduced pension contributions from YRC Worldwide. The new pact also adds concessions on raises for this year and next, among other changes.

“Once again, our members’ sacrifices are providing the lifeline for the company,” Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters freight division, said in the announcement. “Now we fully expect the company to successfully conclude the deleveraging and refinancing components of the restructuring to once and for all put this company on a sustainable path.”

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

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