By Jeff Berman / www.logisticsmgmt.com / November 14th, 2016
Following the announcement to authorize a strike vote last month, union-represented aircraft mechanics and other workers for UPS made that initiative official today.
The impetus for the strike vote stems from three years of negotiations during which time the union members said UPS called for a massive reduction in both active and retiree health benefits, adding that UPS wants to increase healthcare costs for families by as much as 430 percent in the first year of a new contract with subsequent increases each year after at a time when UPS records record profits and dividend payouts, and executive compensation packages.
The voters are comprised of UPS mechanics and other maintenance workers in more than 90 United States locations part of Teamsters Local 2727, whom represents roughly 1,200 employees, with 80 percent, or 950 of the 1,200 UPS maintenance employees participating in the strike vote and 98 percent voting in favor of a strike. The vote was conducted in October and November via an e-mail ballot.
Local 2727 added that this vote comes on the heels of UPS’s recent third quarter earnings announcement in which the company topped expectations with revenue at more than $14.9 billion. UPS also announced that it will ship roughly 700 million packages during the holiday season, which is a 16 percent annual increase, and that it will purchase 14 jumbo aircraft from Boeing Co. between 2017 and 2020.
“Dedicated aircraft maintenance workers are simply asking to keep the benefits they already have so they can keep UPS planes running effectively,” said Tim Boyle, president of Teamsters Local 2727, in a statement “No one wants to strike, but members voted overwhelming to authorize a strike because UPS is refusing to work with us. We’ll do whatever it takes to protect good, middle class jobs, our health and our families.”
As previously reported, UPS said the actions taken by the union are merely an attempt to influence the contract negotiations between UPS and the aircraft mechanics.
Mike Mangeot, UPS Airlines Strategic Communications, told LM in a recent interview that the “the reality is, UPS Airlines places the highest emphasis on safety, and no employee has been assigned to work in an unsafe environment. Our exacting safety standards meet and often exceed government regulations.”
Mangeot added that UPS does a great job of taking care of its aircraft mechanics, who enjoy annual wages in excess of $100,000, a robust pension plan, and premium-free health benefits. And he was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying this situation will not have an impact on the holiday shipping season, with the Teamsters’ Boyle commenting in the same report that any potential strike would not occur before 2017.
“The vote is a symbolic gesture of solidarity common in many types of contract negotiations,” he said in an e-mail today. “Typically, the tally comes back in the high 90s. The vote does not give the union the right to strike, and talks continue under the control of the National Mediation Board. As we enter our busy holiday season, it is business as usual at UPS.”
What’s more, during the 28-year history of UPS Airlines, Mangeot noted UPS has successfully negotiated five contracts with its mechanics, who are among the top earners in their career field.
“We hope to reach a new agreement as quickly as possible,” he said. “However, airline industry contracts often take multiple years to complete. This is due to the complexity of the pacts and the protections of the Railway Labor Act (RLA), the U.S. law that governs airline contract talks.
Under the RLA, airline contracts do not expire, they become amendable. Their terms remain in force while the new contract is negotiated. This is true even when the union employs tactics such as a strike authorization vote, a routine show of solidarity in airline negotiations that does not give the union the right to strike.”
- UPS aircraft mechanics earn $105,000 per year, among the best in commercial aviation;
- UPS aircraft mechanics enjoy a company-funded retirement plan and a 401(k) plan with a three percent match;
- they are covered by a comprehensive health insurance plan with no annual contribution. A typical US family pays approximately $4,800 for medical coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation; and
- UPS Airlines places the highest emphasis on safety, and employees are assigned to work in a safe environment. UPS said its exacting safety standards meet and often exceed government regulations.
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