Management Negotiator Warns Against Contract Rejection
DETROIT (AP) _ The chief management negotiator in the Teamsters car-hauler talks warned Monday that rejection of a tentative contract would cause ″permanent damage″ to the industry.
″Let’s face it, the railroads have gained market penetration in the last two years and they will keep on gaining,″ said Ian Hunter, executive director of the National Automobile Transporters’ labor division. ″There is, indeed, an imminent danger to the industry if the agreement is not ratified.″
Hunter’s comments at a Detroit news conference came as nearly 20,000 Teamsters nationwide hauled thousands of new cars from automobile plants to dealers for the first time in more than three weeks.
Some of the cars had been transported by rail during the strike. Many autos merely sat on parking lots or port docks.
A tentative settlement was approved by more than 90 union officials last week. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed out Thursday to unionized car haulers, who have until Sept. 12 to consider the new pact.
Hunter said car haulers returned to work peacefully Monday, but he acknowledged that about three dozen dissident Teamsters re-established picket lines in Providence, R.I., after Nissan Co. dealers came to the Port of Providence to pick up cars.
″Arrangements have been made to eliminate (the pickets),″ he said.
Hunter said that his appearance in Detroit wasn’t an attempt to counter some of the criticism of the contract agreement. Pete Karagozian, president of Teamsters Local 299 in Detroit, the largest car-hauling local in the country, has sharply criticized the proposal.
″I’m just here to bring you up-to-date,″ Hunter said, adding that management is ″cautiously optimistic″ the three-year contract will be approved by the rank-and-file.
Hunter refused to discuss most contract specifics, but he did say truck drivers will receive a 15 percent increase in salary and benefits. He also indicated that the National Automobile Transporters withdrew a proposal to give car haulers only half-compensation on round trips.
″We have bent to their demands,″ Hunter said. ″There will be permanent damage if this is not approved.″
Karagozian, who said he was the only Teamsters local official who refused to support the tentative agreement, predicted the proposal would be rejected by members.
″I think another rejection is likely,″ Karagozian said Monday. ″There’s some things I object to and members have agree with me. I believe the union negotiators are out of touch with the members.
″I don’t think some of Mr. Presser’s people have been telling him the truth,″ he said, referring to Teamsters Union President Jackie Presser.
Meanwhile, new car dealers reported that autos were slowly rolling into showrooms since the drivers went on strike after contract talks broke off July 25.
″Business has started to pick up,″ said Gerry Burke, business manager at George Matick Chevrolet in Detroit.
″The cars are going to be here and people will be able to see them and feel them,″ Burke said. ″They don’t want to buy it if they can’t see it, and we didn’t have a lot of cars in stock during the strike.″
In southwestern Michigan, one dealer said he was still without cars, ″but 17 are on the way.″
″The mood of customers and my salesmen has definitely improved,″ said Chris Zeppenfeld, sales manager at Jack Keller Ford in Grand Rapids. ″The strike hurt us. We ran out of trucks.″