Labor secretary: 'We can settle this strike'
Teamsters, UPS remain dividedAugust 10, 1997
Web posted at: 4:44 p.m. EDT (2044 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman vowed Sunday to redouble efforts to find out what it will take to bring the Teamsters union and United Parcel Service together to end a weeklong strike.
UPS and union officials broke off talks Saturday, unable to break an impasse despite more than 20 hours of negotiations over three days. The Teamsters' strike against the nationwide package-delivery giant began August 4.
"We've got to leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of what the real differences are here," the labor secretary said. "I believe that we can get them back to the bargaining table, that we can settle this strike."
"They themselves said when they broke off talks yesterday ... that they were willing to continue the discussions. That said to me, 'There's still room here,'" Herman said.
Herman said she planned to telephone both parties to urge them back to the bargaining table.
Appearing on CNN's "Late Edition," the labor secretary urged both sides to be more flexible on key issues and not to do anything that could escalate tensions. In particular, she called on UPS not to hire replacement workers to cross picket lines.
"I certainly believe that is one action that could escalate this strike," she said.
Dave Murray, the chief UPS negotiator, appeared later on the show and said the company had no immediate plan to hire replacements.
"We do not want to hire replacement workers. We want our workers to be able to not have to cross a picket line to come to work," he said.
Herman reiterated that President Clinton had no immediate plans to intervene, despite calls from business leaders, legislators and numerous state governors.
"We don't believe that this situation has reached the state of what we define as a national emergency," she said, defending the president's stance.
Neither side appeared to budge Sunday, and officials for the company and the union indicated they were prepared to dig in for a long walkout.
The Teamsters have blamed the strike on the company's refusal to create more full-time jobs. UPS has argued that the real issue is the Teamsters' refusal to let the company withdraw from a union pension plan that includes 30 other companies.
For UPS to re-enter negotiations, Murray said, the Teamsters must show a willingness to end the strike and devise proposals to create a cost structure that keeps the company competitive.
"We have not seen any such proposals to date," he said.
Not true, responded Teamsters President Ron Carey, who also appeared on "Late Edition."
"Oh, we gave it to him on Saturday night, and I'm talking about proposals," Carey said.
He said the union stands by its demand that UPS hire more full-time employees. About 58 percent of UPS workers are classified as part-time, and the base wage for those workers, $8 an hour, hasn't been raised in 15 years.
"What America needs is good, decent, full-time jobs. Part-time America just won't work," he said, emphasizing that 83 percent of UPS' job growth has been for part-time employment. "I see this as a strike the company has forced."
"We believe that as the company grows, so should the jobs grow. The company believes just the opposite, and that is to grow more part-time jobs, to subcontract -- to steal away the American dream," Carey said.
Murray defended his company's record, saying that the growth in part-time jobs occurred because the demand for the type of work they do has increased rapidly.
He noted that UPS has created more than 8,000 new jobs over the last four years, and that 13,000 previously part-time workers were promoted to full-time. He also emphasized that part-timers have benefits with the company.
"The part-time issue is an absolute red herring," Murray said. "Our part-time workers are doing the same work they've done at UPS for the last 30 years."
About 23.2 million Americans hold part-time jobs, accounting for 18.3 percent of the nation's total work force of more than 126 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
UPS' final contract offer included a 1.5 percent annual wage increase for full-time workers, as well as a $3,060 bonus. But the company wants to pull out of a Teamsters multi-employer pension fund, setting up a new fund just for UPS employees. The Teamsters object.
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