The current agreement expires April 1. Union and Associated negotiators met all last week to discuss a new contract but reportedly didn't get to the issue of drivers until Friday.
Associated already has a tentative agreement with Refrigerated Transport Express to run its trucking division if a deal isn't struck with the union drivers. Now Associated has reportedly contracted with Refrigerated to deliver goods from a storage site in Carthage, MO. The carrier has been advertising for owner-operators in Carthage and Springfield for several weeks and, according to wire service reports, says drivers should be ready to go to work in early April.
Associated says it sees no reason to negotiate if the union can't offer comparable cost savings to outsourcing. Last Friday Teamster negotiators supposedly put a package on the table that cuts costs by combining hourly, mileage and stop-time pay. Meetings are scheduled to resume Wednesday.