Star Tribune sues drivers' union after failure to reach pensions
The Star Tribune has sued its Teamsters drivers in an effort to
void their contract.
By HERÓN MÁRQUEZ ESTRADA
Mpls Star Tribune
Monday, May 18, 2009
As it continues to try to extricate itself from bankruptcy, the
Star Tribune on Sunday filed suit against Teamsters Local 638 in
an attempt to cancel its fleet drivers' contract and stop
funding their pension plan.
The company and the union have been negotiating for almost a
year on a new collective bargaining agreement. The company said
the two sides had reached agreement on almost $4 million in
savings but stalled over management's effort to withdraw from
the Teamsters' Central States pension plan.
In a redacted copy of its filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court
in New York, the company
said that withdrawing from the pension would save another $1
million per year. Under the plan's regulations, such a
withdrawal would trigger a $20 million liability, which the
company is asking the court to cancel.
The company said its lenders, who are owed about $400 million,
would not agree to exchange their debt for equity if the company
faces such pension liabilities. The company also has sought and
obtained pension payment relief from its other unions by
freezing or withdrawing from their plans. It has already reached
labor agreements with its other major unions. Talks continue
with several smaller unions.
An official of the union, which represents about 90 full-time
Star Tribune drivers, said Sunday the union had no comment
regarding the filing.
Publisher Chris Harte said in a statement the company no longer
can afford what he termed the skyrocketing cost and the
liabilities of the pension. "Over the past few months, we have
attempted to reach agreement with the fleet," he said. "We have
made substantial progress but are unable to agree on pension
related issues. We are now seeking the help of the bankruptcy
court to resolve these issues."
Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280