ATLANTA — The executive board of UPS Inc.’s pilots union has approved holding a strike authorization vote after protracted contract talks between the two sides broke down, the union said Thursday.
The two sides have been in federal mediated talks since last June but have not been able to reach agreement on issues involving scheduling, scope, compensation, pension and benefits.
A strike authorization vote allows the union to call a strike without polling its members again, but does not mean that a walkout is imminent.
Under the Railway Labor Act, the pilots can’t strike while mediated talks are ongoing and no timetable has been set for when the talks will end.
But a spokesman for the Independent Pilots Association, which represents UPS’ 2,483 pilots, said the pilots feel they have no choice but to force the issue. Spokesman Brian Gaudet said the results of the vote should be announced by May 12.
“We hope the vote will focus UPS’ attention,” Gaudet said.
He said the two sides are “hundreds of millions of dollars apart” on a new contract, though he would not be specific. Atlanta-based UPS would not comment on contract specifics.
United Parcel Service Inc. said its pilots make an average of $175,000 a year. The union has put the average at roughly $120,000.
UPS spokesman Mark Giuffre said the plans for the vote amounted to “purely union tactics and rhetoric during negotiations.”
“It’s nothing more than that. It means nothing,” he said.
Giuffre said the company believes that talks this week in Cincinnati between the two sides went well.
“We made good progress during the talks this week. The negotiator added additional dates in May,” he said.
He said UPS was prepared for the possibility of a strike vote.
“It’s something we anticipated,” he said.
The company and its pilots union have been trying to negotiate a new contract for more than two years.
The pilots contract became amendable on Dec. 31, 2003, and has remained unchanged since then.
The pilot negotiations at UPS come as the world’s largest shipping carrier is hoping to expand its overseas business in China.
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