The Independent Pilots Association, which represents nearly 2,500 pilots for UPS, approved holding a strike authorization vote. A positive vote by union members won’t result in an immediate walk out, however, it does allow the union to take job action without the need for another vote. Under terms of the Railway Labor Act, which governs the pilots, they cannot strike while mediated talks are ongoing. Labor contracts governed by the Railway Labor Act don’t expire on a specific date, but they become amendable. The current contract became amendable January 1, 2004. A federal mediator has been involved with the talks since June 2004 and, according to a UPS spokesman, has the authority to keep both parties at the negotiating table until an agreement is reached.
Results of the strike authorization vote won’t be announced until May 12. “We expect in mid-May that they’ll make a big announcement about how the membership has overwhelmingly provided the strike authorization,” said Norman Black, a UPS spokesman. “But nothing changes the fact that these talks are under the control of a federal mediator. The union can’t strike,” he concluded.
Reports differ regarding the amount of progress being made in the talks. Brian Gaudet, a spokesman for the union, has been quoted saying the two sides are hundreds of millions of dollars apart on the contract. UPS says they had made “good progress” during the most recent talks. “We’re down to the tough issues when you’re talking about finishing off scheduling and then doing compensation,” says Black. He’s quick to add that UPS pilots are the highest paid in the aviation industry – cargo or passenger. “They work for a large, growing, stable airline. We’re the only airline in America that I know of that’s hiring pilots right now. And on top of that, we’ve said that they’re going to get a pay raise.”
Additional dates for continued talks are scheduled for May.
“[The pilots] are one part of a very large team that’s got many more people on the ground handling those packages,” says Black. “If one part of the team doesn’t do its job then everything fails from the standpoint of our customer. We have every intention of rewarding them as one part of the team.”
The last strike against UPS was a 15-day Teamster strike in 1997, three years after the union had struck the less-than-truckload carriers. The Teamster contract is separate from the pilots and is not governed by the Railway Labor Act.
No Agreement Yet With UPS Pilots (July 2004)