The Teamsters went on strike early today against the United Parcel Service after union negotiators walked out of contract talks, disrupting the daily delivery of 12 million packages by the nation’s largest carrier.
The talks between the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and UPS, which were the first since talks broke off Friday, resumed at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the request of federal mediators, but collapsed at 10 p.m.
“We’ve exhausted every possible approach to resolve the problem,” Teamsters President Ron Carey said as he left the talks at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service office here. “This is a waste of time.”
The chief negotiator for UPS, Dave Murray, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Teamsters decided to walk out on these settlement talks.”
A strike at UPS could cripple delivery service nationwide because many of the company’s competitors, such as Federal Express Corp., Airborne Express and the U.S. Postal Service, would be hard pressed to handle the extra demand on their services, industry experts said.
The Independent Pilots Association, which also is in contract negotiations with UPS, said its 2,000 members would not cross Teamsters picket lines. The pilots, by honoring a walkout, would not violate rules that restrict their ability to strike.
UPS officials said Sunday night that the company would attempt to continue its operations by using management and non-union employees. Priority would be given to packages for which delivery is critical, including medical and pharmaceutical products, perishables and those being flown internationally. UPS said it would try to maintain air delivery service by using management-level pilots.
“We will try to operate as normally as possible,” said UPS spokeswoman Gina Ellrich. “We have never had a job action to this extent.” In the past, union employees at UPS have staged one work stoppage.
Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman urged both sides to resume negotiations. “UPS and and Teamsters representatives should press on and not rest until they find the common ground that resolves this dispute with the least disruption and inconvenience for everyone involved …”
United Parcel Service of America Inc., based in Atlanta, employs 308,000 workers in the United States, 185,000 of whom are represented by the Teamsters, including drivers, sorters and package handlers. The closely held company last year reported net income of $1.15 billion and revenue of $22.4 billion.
The Teamsters and UPS remain apart on a number of issues. The Teamsters want the company to create more full-time jobs for its part-time workers, eliminate the use of outside contractors, increase wages and improve pension benefits and job safety.
On the issue of job safety, the union said UPS has increased weight limits on the amount of packages that employees must lift, causing a risk in on-the-job injuries.
UPS has offered to create 1,000 full-time jobs over the life of a proposed five-year contract, for which part-timers would be given first preference. The company has offered employees hourly pay increases, which also include several bonuses over the life of the contract.
The proposed contract would increase salaries at UPS, making its employees among the highest paid in the industry, company officials said. Top hourly pay for full-time workers would increase to $21.45 from $19.95 by the 2001. The hourly wage for the lowest paid part-time employees would increase to $11 from $8 by 2001. The wage increase also include several bonuses over the life of the contract.
xxxx LOCAL TEAMSTERS There are 460 Teamsters on the UPS payroll in Spokane, and a total of 650 serving Eastern Washington and North Idaho. The employees are responsible for sorting and delivering the packages for the service. Spokane-based Teamsters Local 690 represents the union members. Although many would like full-time jobs, about 60 percent of the UPS Teamsters are part-time employees, a union spokesman said.