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Teamsters end talks; UPS strike appears imminent


'Just a waste of time,' union president says

August 3, 1997
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The leader of the Teamsters union angrily walked out of talks with United Parcel Service Sunday night, saying a strike against the nation's largest package delivery service was imminent.

"We are done negotiating," Teamsters President Ron Carey said during a new conference Sunday at about 10 p.m. "There are no more talks from our side. That means there's a strike at 12:01."

Earlier Sunday, John Calhoun Wells, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said both parties were entering the last-ditch talks "with a real sense of urgency."

Carey, who once worked at UPS, had granted a previous deadline extension at Wells' request, and had said going into negotiations at 7:30 p.m. that he was "optimistic" a settlement could be reached. But he said the face-to-face talks with company management were fruitless.

"We have exhausted every possible approach to try to solve the problem," Carey said. "There are a number of complex problems. At this point it's just a waste of time."

Officials at UPS had no immediate response.

Strike would have wide affect


The strike would be the largest job action in the country since March 1996 when an 18-day walkout by 2,700 workers at two General Motors Corp. brake factories brought GM assembly plants to a standstill, idling 177,000 workers.

The Teamsters-UPS contract is the largest labor pact up for negotiation this year. Atlanta-based UPS employs 301,000 people in the United States and is the nation's largest package delivery operation. Some 185,000 of its employees are represented by the Teamsters, including package sorters, loaders and drivers.

With its trademark shiny brown trucks, UPS normally handles about 12 million packages a day, an estimated four-fifths of those shipped by ground nationwide.

The company said last week that the threat of a strike was costing it about $5 million a day in business lost to competitors such as the U.S. Postal Service and Federal Express Corp.

A protracted strike also would prove costly to the union. As striking Teamsters are eligible for $55 in weekly strike benefits after the first week on the line, an extended strike could cost the union about $10 million weekly.

Consumers and businesses that ship goods via UPS would feel the pinch. UPS closest competitor, FedEx, handles just 2.4 million packages daily. Analysts say FedEx and the Postal Service wouldn't be able to handle the extra volume.

Pilots also walk off the job


UPS pilots, represented by the International Pilots Association, have pledged to walk out with the Teamsters.

"In the event of a Teamsters strike, IPA members will perform no company duty of any kind. This includes no flying, training or company-directed deadheading after the initiation of a strike," said a telephone recording at IPA headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.

In Atlanta, UPS spokesman Norman Black said that if the 2,000 IPA pilots did not show up for work, the company would try to maintain some level of air traffic by calling in 138 management-level pilots.

UPS flies out of 80 U.S. airports, and normally delivers 1.6 million packages a day by air.

Differences remain wide

Along with increases in pay and pensions, the Teamsters have demanded limits on subcontracting, better safety and health provisions, and more full-time jobs. Some two-thirds of the drivers, sorters and other UPS workers represented by the union work part-time.

Earlier Sunday night Wells had said the two sides remained apart on a number of issues, but declined to elaborate. On Saturday the Teamsters made what they described as slight changes in their latest offer based on 15 hours of bargaining last week overseen by federal mediators.

The union wants the company to provide thousands of new full-time jobs. The company has offered to create 1,000 new full-time jobs from part-time positions over the life of a proposed five-year contract.

In what it called its "last, best and final" contract offer on Thursday, the company offered to boost pay for both full- and part-time workers by $1.50 to $2.50 per hour over five years. Under the company proposal, a profit-sharing plan would provide a first payment of $3,060 to full-time employees and $1,530 to part-time workers in 1997.

The Teamsters contract expired at midnight Thursday, but talks continued until dawn Friday and then resumed that afternoon for six hours. Carey left the bargaining table Friday, saying he was frustrated by the lack of progress.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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