EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I., Sept. 25, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Representatives from Teamsters Local 251 distributed a letter regarding the health and future of the New England Pension Fund to the Providence First Student bus drivers today. The letter addresses the mischaracterizations that First Student's public relations experts are relying on as they refuse to budge in negotiations.
Executive Director Ed Groden wrote:
"The Pension Fund began 60 years ago and has never missed a pension payment. The Pension Fund's largest employer, UPS, contributes about 18 million hours annually on behalf of their 10,000 covered employees. As a result of their recent negotiations with the Teamsters and the Pension Fund, UPS has committed to increase their annual contributions to the Pension Fund by $100 million, nearly double their current annual contribution amount . . . These annual payments are an indication of the confidence that one of the most profitable U.S. companies has in the future of the New England Teamsters Pension Fund. The commitment of UPS and hundreds of other employers participating in Pension Fund will ensure that the Pension Fund will continue to provide meaningful pension benefits to its covered members for the foreseeable, extended future."
Instead of negotiating, First Student has embarked on a cynical public relations campaign with the goal of turning Rhode Islanders against each other.
"It's sick that a massive, multinational corporation based in England accuses local Rhode Island school bus drivers of dividing the community," said Matt Taibi, Teamsters Local 251 Secretary-Treasurer. "These are working women and men who live, work and raise their children in Rhode Island. The members that drive the buses aren't the people holding the community hostage. Instead, it's a greedy corporation that looks to milk every dollar they can out of the community to boost their corporate earnings reports."
Teamsters Local 251 will strike First Student Providence the morning of Thursday September 27th, if an agreement with First Student is not reached. The Teamsters continue to be ready, willing and able to meet any day at any time to avoid a work stoppage since negotiations broke down last week.
First Student profits immensely from privatized transportation services, including school busing in Providence, RI. Teamsters Local 251 has been bargaining for a contract for Providence bus drivers. The key issue is of retirement security, and the history of impropriety by First Student.
"First Student, at many of its locations represented by Local 251 right here in Rhode Island," said Business Agent Nick Williams, "have blatantly violated the trust of its employees, and their contractual obligation to contribute toward retirement benefits."
Despite claims to the contrary, Local 251 has regularly investigated and corrected issues with First Student not remitting employees' 401k contributions to the appropriate funds. The Pawtucket location had issues at one point dating back 2 years, the investigation involved Unfair Labor Practice charges filed against First Student. These instances involve thousands of dollars in retirement contributions. Multiple First Student locations are currently being investigated for failure to remit 401k contributions.
"First Student must recognize the value of the bus drivers. Providence bus drivers are valuable members of this community, who safely transport our school children to and from school every day. Many Teamster drivers are parents as well, working a part-time job to support their families," said Matt Taibi. " Instead of unlawfully communicating directly to drivers, the Company needs to meet to bargain over a secure retirement. Drivers are tired of their false promises. Providence drivers deserve dignity and respect as the face of the company in safely transporting school children every day."
Letter included below:
NEW ENGLAND TEAMSTERS & TRUCKING INDUSTRY PENSION FUND
1 Wall Street | Burlington, Massachusetts 01803-4768
Telephone 781-345-4400 | Fax 781-345-4402
Toll Free Phone 800-447-7709
September 24, 2018
Dear First Student Driver:
You may have read some comments recently regarding the fiscal health and long-term viability of the New England Teamsters Pension Fund. Those comments have been made by persons not connected to the Pension Fund. While it is true that the Pension Fund is 55% funded, many positive developments have occurred during the past few years to strengthen the Pension Fund. The Trustees implemented a New Employer initiative designed specifically to attract Teamsterorganized companies who do not participate in the Pension Fund. Over the past few years more than 60 New Employers have joined the Pension Fund and those new participants now represent 10% of the active participant base. As a result, the Pension Fund's ratio of retirees to active participants has been dropping during the past few years, which is a very positive development and a claim few multiemployer pension funds can make.
The Pension Fund's largest employer, UPS, contributes about 18 million hours annually on behalf of their 10,000 covered employees. As a result of their recent negotiations with the Teamsters and the Pension Fund, UPS has committed to increase their annual contributions to the Pension Fund by $100 million, nearly double their current annual contribution amount. When their annual contribution amounts are added to the $43 million that UPS currently pays as part of its transition agreement, the result is that UPS will be paying more than $250 million into the Pension Fund every year for years to come. These annual payments are an indication of the confidence that one of the most profitable U.S. companies has in the future of the New England Teamsters Pension Fund. The commitment of UPS and hundreds of other employers participating in Pension Fund will ensure that the Pension Fund will continue to provide meaningful pension benefits to its covered members for the foreseeable, extended future.
The Pension Fund began 60 years ago and has never missed a pension payment. The Trustees are committed to the long-term health and viability of the Pension Fund and we hope to welcome First Student as a New Employer and its Drivers as active participants in the near future.
Edward F. Groden
Nick Williams (401) 434-0454
SOURCE Teamsters Local 251