November 26, 1995 in Nation/World

Pilots Threaten Slowdown As Fedex Breaks Contract Talks Company Still Offering Guaranteed Overnight Delivery

Karin Miller Associated Press

FedEx pilots on Saturday threatened to delay delivery of hundreds of thousands of holiday packages after the company walked away from contract talks with their union.

But the company that delivers nearly 2.4 million items each working day promised it would operate as usual, continuing to honor a money-back guarantee for on-time deliveries.

“Our operation did run normally this morning, and customers should expect normal delivery,” Tom Martin, a spokesman for the Memphis-based company, said several hours after negotiations broke off at midnight EST.

In the first possible sign of a slowdown, FedEx on Saturday kicked at least four pilots off its property - including one who was allegedly accused of moving too slowly down the runway, said Anya Silecky of the Air Line Pilots Association.

She said she could not provide details, but added that one pilot was told to surrender an employee ID badge.

Martin confirmed there were a few incidents, but also didn’t have details.

“All I can say is that we communicated very clearly that if any pilots engage in illegal activities, and a slowdown certainly would qualify, we would take disciplinary action,” he said. That could include firing pilots.

Pilots had been negotiating for their first contract with the package hauler since the union won certification in 1993. The company rejected the last offer before a federally ordered “cooling-off period” ended at midnight.

That allowed pilots to strike. They pledged instead to work their regular shifts but not to work overtime, which they say could slow delivery of up to 400,000 packages a day.

Martin said talks broke off because the union’s proposals would have cost the company $200 million over the agreement’s three years.

“I don’t think that is a price customers would be willing to pay,” he said.

The pilot’s association represents about half the company’s 2,950 pilots, who earn, on average, $128,000 a year. That includes $28,000 in overtime, Martin said.

FedEx has 114,000 employees worldwide and is the nation’s largest overnight delivery company. On its busiest day during last year’s holiday season, the company shipped 3.4 million items.

Martin said three-fourths of the FedEx pilots are expected to continue flying overtime flights and that the company has contingency plans if the union’s actions impact the delivery schedule. He declined to detail those plans.

The pilots, the only domestic FedEx employees represented by a union, have been seeking a contract since May 1994. Talks stalled last month and the cooling-off period was ordered by the National Labor Relations Board.

The two sides resumed talks Monday, meeting even on Thanksgiving Day.

The company wants to reduce vacation time, change work rules and cancel profit sharing, which the pilots say would cost them $19 million to $40 million.

Neither side could say when talks might resume.

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