UPS pilots appear to have overwhelmingly agreed to strike. The decision comes at a very busy time of the year for the parcel delivery service. Seemingly stalled negotiations for more than five years could be one of the primary drivers that pushed the pilots to strike.
The union representing United Parcel Service Inc. pilots, voted to authorize a strike against the Atlanta-based shipping giant. The members of the Louisville-based Independent Pilots Association (IPA), the union that represents pilots for UPS, may have unanimously voted for the strike to happen, but there’s no guarantee it will, reported Louisville Business First. The vote merely indicates that the members on the board of the IPA, who have been negotiating a new union contract, now have the right to formally request a release from federally mediated negotiations with UPS.
Since the right has been granted through the vote, UPS pilots, through the IPA, could call for a strike if the mediation doesn’t yield satisfactory results. The vote indicates the strike may not be held illegal or unconstitutional. Lamenting the condition of the workers, IPA president Captain Robert Travis said the following.
“UPS promises its customers on-time delivery, but after four years of labor negotiations, the company has failed to deliver a contract for its own pilots. In a clear voice, UPS pilots have said they are willing to strike if necessary to finish the job.”
The negotiations have been going on for the past five years. Both the parties agree that the lines of communication haven’t been severed. In fact, UPS claims it has successfully negotiated contracts four times in its 27 years of running an airline that is easily the largest air-sorting operation in Louisville. However, while UPS pilots feel the company is procrastinating, UPS Airlines public relations manager Mike Mangeot maintained the following.
“Negotiations continue to move forward, with sessions currently scheduled for November and December. The vote does not impede the company’s ability to provide service and is an expected part of the union’s negotiations approach.”
But he categorically stated that a strike by the UPS pilots should be deemed illegal under U.S. labor law because negotiations are federally mediated under the Railway Labor Act, a notation that seems to have been nullified by the vote, which authorized the strike by a count of 2,252 to 8. UPS believes threatening to strike is “a symbolic gesture.”
Such tactics are common during airline negotiations, and hence, the company is confident that there won’t be any major disruptions during the time that is considered the busiest for companies like UPS, said Kevin Sterling, a transportation analyst with BB&T Capital Markets.
“It’s in the back of everybody’s mind, but I get the sense that no one is running for the hills yet. They understand that it’s a tactic.”
What is bothering the UPS pilots? The main bone of contention for the pilots union is works rules, particularly those pertaining to avoid excessive fatigue. Essentially, the pilots are demanding more time to rest between flights. Their expectation of work hours is quite close to what the Federal Aviation Administration has come up with for airline pilots, reported the Denver Post. The other points that the union is fighting for the workers are better pay, healthcare, and retirement benefits.
While the UPS pilots are clearly unhappy, the situation is the opposite at FedEx. Pilots working for the UPS competitor have attested to a new six-year contract agreement. The contract seemingly accords better pay rates, attractive signing bonuses, and multiple improvements in the work rules that the company claims benefit the workers.
The vote may not be an indicator that UPS pilots will strike, but it is surely a step that concretizes the possibility.
[Photo by Tim Boyle / Getty Images]