Greetham, N.J. (AP) The New Jersey trucking industry is preparing for a potential wave of job cuts and a possible loss of its most skilled workforce as the nation faces its worst winter in decades.
The state’s Truck Drivers Union is urging its members to join forces with a coalition of trucking companies to fight for an expanded set of union contracts.
The union’s latest letter to its members is a sign of the efforts of the union to build support for an overhaul of the industry’s relationship with management and to keep truckers from losing their jobs.
The letter says the industry is “going to need to rebuild the infrastructure” and hire a few hundred new drivers.
The workers are already looking to get ahead.
In a survey released this week by the American Trucking Associations, truck drivers said they plan to spend more than $6 million on training this year, which could make up the difference in job losses if they’re not given raises.
The association says trucking firms have already offered a $3 million pay raise, but the union wants a much bigger raise to $5 million.
The industry is in a bind because of the state’s long history of contracting with companies that are not unionized.
It is also at a critical time because of a weak economy, with no end in sight to a recession that began in 2009.
The trucking union says it has been negotiating for more than a year with trucking executives to agree on a collective bargaining agreement, and has offered its members a package that includes a $6.5 million pay increase over three years.
The unions also say they are negotiating with the state to offer them a 10 percent pay increase for the next three years, plus an extra year of severance and other incentives.
The American Truckers Association has a long history as an anti-union organization, but this is the first time the union has stepped in.
It’s also one of the few unionized industries in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation says there’s no plan for new jobs for the state trucking workforce, although there are plans to recruit new drivers and maintain existing ones.
The union says its members have not been offered job offers from the companies that run the state roads.
State officials have said they’re hoping to reach an agreement by the end of the month.