Subject: Labor Secretary works the phones in effort to end UPS strike
The Clinton Administration turned to telephone jawboning by its labor secretary Wednesday in an attempt to end the ten-day-old Teamsters Union strike against United Parcel Service.
No face-to-face meetings were planned, but Labor Secretary Alexis Herman said she would be having informal telephone contacts with both sides.
The face off between the union and the parcel giant became more shrill Tuesday with the Teamsters charging UPS was using scare tactics in announcing it might have to eliminate jobs and the company saying the union is opposing a pension plan that would pay UPS workers more money.
Asked to characterize the state of negotiations between UPS and the union, UPS Chairman James Kelly said: "I would characterize them as being at an impasse."
The union accuses UPS of trying to take over the pension plan, a charge Kelly denies. "Our pension proposal would provide much better benefits for our people," he said.
UPS pays $1.06 billion a year to 41 multi-employer pension plans run by the Teamsters Union.
"We're currently in multi-employer plans. We want it to be a single-employer plan. It would be administered by both the Teamsters and UPS and our people would get the benefit of the dollars we're spending for their pensions and it would be a much more secure pension for them," Kelly said.
The new pension plan would increase benefits by 50 percent, the company says, and UPS would match benefits for any worker who may be earning more than under the company proposal.
Interviewed later, Teamsters spokeswoman Gaye Williams said she considers the UPS pension proposal a "grab for power."
"Our Teamster pension funds can meet or exceed what UPS is offering," she said.
The strike is costing both sides. UPS has said that it is moving about 10 percent of its usual daily volume of packages. UPS said it belives it is losing between $200-$300 million a week. It said Tuesday the company have to eliminate as many as 15,500 jobs because of business it has lost permanently.
About 185,000 striking union members are missing their paychecks. They will get only $55 in strike pay from the Teamsters Union, but that will cost the Teamsters $10 million a week.
On Tuesday, the AFL-CIO said its 78 unions would act to provide loan guarantees so the Teamsters would make the strike payments to its members.
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