Three months before TFI International (NYSE:TFII) announced the acquisition of UPS’ (NYSE:UPS) freight business, CEO Alain Bedard expressed a willingness to buy a unionized less-than-truckload operation and lauded the performance of the parcel giant with the Teamsters – and his own company’s experience with organized labor in Canada.
“If you look at the largest trucking company in the world, they’re unionized with the Teamsters and they do a fantastic job,” Bedard told financial analysts in October after TFI’s third-quarter financial results, referencing UPS without naming it. “Also with us, some of our operations in Canada are unionized and we do very well. We work with the union – not a problem at all.”
Bedard made the comments in October while discussing TFI’s plans to expand into the U.S. LTL market. At the time, the company was in the late stages of its agreement to buy UPS’ freight business, which includes more than 11,000 employees represented by the Teamsters in the U.S. and Canada.
Sometime during the second quarter, when the deal closes, TFI and the Teamsters will become bedfellows. In the short term, the collective bargaining agreements reached with UPS will ensure a baseline status quo for labor relations. But the future remains an open question.
Both the Teamsters and TFI declined to comment on how they envision relations going forward. A letter sent to members Tuesday said the union expects to begin communication with TFI shortly.
“All operations will remain status quo until further notice. We will let you know of any updates as they become available,” Kris Taylor, the Teamsters’ coordinator for UPS Freight, wrote to members. The letter noted the existing collective bargaining agreements with some Teamsters locals and TFI companies.
UPS Freight dwarfs TFI’s existing unionized operations
TFI has experience working with unions, including the Teamsters, across its more than 80 operating companies, but nothing approaches the scale of UPS Freight, set to operate as TForce Freight.
It’s also unclear just how many of TFI’s more than 16,000 employees are unionized. The Montreal-based company does not publish figures and it did not immediately provide those to FreightWaves.
While TFI has unionized operations, including couriers Canpar Express and Loomis and LTL carrier CF-TST Overland Express, nothing approaches the size of the former UPS unit. And recent history doesn’t paint a clear picture either.
In 2019, about 400 employees of Ontario-based TST, including truck drivers, secured a new four-year contract with a 9.5% raise. It came after the members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.
“They showed the company in no uncertain terms that they were serious about defending their rights,” Rick Davies, the head of the negotiating committee, said at the time, according to a Teamsters Canada news release.