Four years of negotiation is apparently long enough. The Independent Pilot’s Association (IPA) said it is prepared to go on strike against UPS if a contract acceptable to union members is not agreed upon by the Oct. 23 mediation deadline. Additionally, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has pledged to stand by the pilots and not cross their picket line.
In a letter to IPA, dated Oct. 20, James Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, and the union’s secretary-treasurer Ken Hall, said that, without a collective bargaining agreement, UPS would “take full advantage” of the pilots to reduce costs and increase efficiency, “regardless of the impact on its employees.” Hoffa and Hall emphasized that “no one wants to strike,” but they pledged their solidarity with the cause of the pilot’s union. “The Teamsters have not forgotten the solidarity that your members showed us in 1997 when not one single IPA member crossed our picket lines,” the letter to IPA stated.
The National Mediation Board (NMB), which has been mediating negotiations between the pilots and UPS since early in 2014, could grant a release from the mediations by Oct. 23. Members have been voting all month – the results will be revealed also on Oct. 23. If members vote to strike, the IPA said it will request a release from the federal negotiations and a strike would commence. However, UPS said that the vote is merely symbolic, and that, under the Railway Labor Act, which is the U.S. labor law that governs airline negotiations, the NMB controls negotiations, and a strike is not possible without its consent.
UPS said it continues to negotiate in good faith for a win-win contract and that it wants a contract that’s good for its employees, customers and the company. But IPA president Robert Travis said, “UPS has stalled and delayed, unnecessarily prolonging our negotiations.”
UPS said is takes “excellent care of its pilots, paying captains a guaranteed minimum of $255,128 per year and typically $35,000 more. UPS said FedEx pilots are paid $230,279 per year, at guarantee. A typical UPS crewmember works about 10 days a month flying half the time of a typical passenger airline pilot. “UPS crewmembers enjoy two company-funded retirement plans in addition to a traditional 401(k), a defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan,” the company said.
The two sides have been in conflict over compensation, pensions and benefits for four years. A strike couldn’t come at a worse time for the integrator, with the busy holiday season rapidly approaching. UPS said, “it’s business as usual, and that customers can rest assured their shipments are in good hands, and any discussion of holiday disruptions is negotiations posturing.”
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