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Teamsters set UPS strike deadline for midnight Sunday

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Union submits new proposal to company

August 2, 1997
Web posted at: 11:14 p.m. EDT (0314 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Teamsters Union submitted a new contract proposal to United Parcel Service on Saturday evening, as a federal mediator worked to avert a strike against the nation's largest package-delivery company.

More than 185,000 UPS employees will walk off the job and join picket lines at midnight Sunday if an agreement with the company isn't reached, the union announced Saturday -- a strike that could have far-reaching effects on the U.S. economy.

Meeting reporters outside his office Saturday evening, federal mediator John Calhoun Wells announced that he had just faxed the Teamsters' latest proposal to UPS. He termed it a "comprehensive contract proposal" but declined to provide any details.

However, Wells said he did not expect any immediate break in the impasse between the company and the union.

"I would not suggest you spend the night here," Wells said, although he said it is "possible" that the two sides, which suspended talks Friday night, might meet again Sunday.

Teamsters' spokesman Rand Wilson said, "We're prepared to meet up until the deadline," adding that it was up to UPS to respond to the Teamsters' new offer.

UPS expressed interest in continuing the talks, but company spokeswoman Gina Ellrich said the new strike deadline announced by the union was "very unfortunate."

UPS: Pension dispute is sticking point

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The Teamsters contract covering nearly two-thirds of the Atlanta-based company's 302,000 U.S. employees expired at midnight Thursday. After 15 hours of intensive talks over two days, overseen by Wells, frustrated union officials asked for a recess Friday night, saying there really wasn't much bargaining going on.

"I'm disappointed by the lack of progress," Teamsters President Ron Carey said.

Union officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the company had failed to address their key requests: putting an end to subcontracting, creating more full-time jobs and increasing wages. Another sticking point was the company's desire to withdraw from the Teamsters' multi-employer pension and health funds.

In a statement announcing its new strike deadline, the Teamsters said a strike will commence, "if the company refuses to agree to a new contract that provides good full-time jobs with pensions and health coverage."

Ellrich said UPS had offered major proposals to meet the union's concerns. The main sticking point appeared to be pension benefits, she said.

"Our proposals to the union have offered more than 10,000 opportunities for part-time workers to move into full-time jobs," she said. "UPS has proposed to guarantee that no UPS driving job would be eliminated or reduced if it subcontracts."

"The issue really is pensions. UPS has offered a program that the Teamsters cannot live with," Ellrich said. The company has made an offer that would improve workers' monthly benefits by an average of 50 percent, according to her.

10,000 workers laid off

An UPS spokesman told CNN Saturday that the company has laid off thousands of employees, because the threat of a strike has caused a dramatic decline in business.

On Friday, customers sent more than 1 million packages via other carriers that they normally would have sent with UPS, costing the company about $5 million in revenues, UPS spokesman Mark Dickens said. The company estimates it is losing about 8 percent of its daily business.

"If you lose packages, you lose jobs," Dickens said, estimating that nearly 10,000 workers were laid off Friday. Those laid off included part-time package handlers and full-time drivers, he said.

Correspondent Louise Schiavone and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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