8/19/08

Teamsters out on strike v. Ford

Related story: "The 28 labor-states"

Militant union fails to stop production in labor-state

Teamster workers at Ford's Louisville Assembly and Kentucky Truck plants went on strike yesterday after contract negotiations broke down between the union and Auto Port, a contractor Ford hired this year to load new vehicles onto railcars for shipment.

The strike, which involves about 435 workers, is not affecting production at the plants, said Ford spokeswoman Angie Kozleski. She said the auto company had contingency plans in place but declined to describe the measures.

Disputes over the railcar-loading work began soon after Ford announced the switch from contractor RCS Transportation of Shelbyville to Auto Port, a subsidiary of Toronto-based CN International.

Auto Port, which had won a three-year contract for the work, notified Teamster employees that they would be out of a job June 1, but invited them to interview for their old jobs at less than half their former hourly pay of $20 to $22.

A compromise allowed the Teamsters to stay on at reduced wages, but with the same health and pension benefits. Details of a final contract were to be worked out later, but "negotiations broke down Friday, and they refused to meet with us," said Fred Zuckerman, Teamsters Local 89 president. "As a result, we set up picket lines today."

The two sides deadlocked on job security issues, Zuckerman said. "That's always been the biggest issue."

Under the Teamsters' national contract, "we have the ability to follow the work from one employer to another, and they will not agree to it," Zuckerman said. A spokesman for CN International did not immediately return a call seeking comment late yesterday.

The Teamsters also filed a lawsuit Friday against Auto Port in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The union charged that the company had agreed to arbitration regarding disputes over remaining sick days and personal leave days for the former RCS employees.

The suit alleges the Teamsters won the arbitration, but that Auto Port refused to abide by the decision. Claims in a lawsuit represent only one side of a case.

Kozleski declined to comment on the suit or other issues in the dispute.

Zuckerman said the Teamsters "will continue to picket … until we can resolve our differences," but acknowledged that Auto Port may seek to replace the striking workers.

"This is a very important issue for us," Zuckerman said.

(courier-journal.com)

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