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Teamsters trickle back to their UPS jobs

UPS page

But company still warns of possible layoffs

August 20, 1997
Web posted at: 11:21 a.m. EDT (1521 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Teamsters members began returning to work Wednesday at United Parcel Service as the company set out to win back customers who strayed to other delivery carriers during the two-week labor walkout.

"We're Back -- Moving at the Speed of Business Again" read a headline on the UPS Internet site.

A tentative settlement with the Teamsters union took employees off picket lines they formed August 4, but Teamsters President Ron Carey told CNN it likely would be several days before everybody was back at work.

The tentative agreement would combine part-time slots to create 10,000 new full-time jobs, limit subcontracting and increase UPS' contributions to the union's multi-employer pension and health plans.

Eliminating the backlog

Wednesday's first order of business was to pick up thousands of packages being held by regular customers.

Officials from Teamsters locals unanimously approved the settlement Tuesday night. The complex 164-page contract, which would replace one that expired July 30, will be mailed to 185,000 union members for their votes. The process may take a month to complete.

At the UPS distribution facility in Manhattan, UPS driver Bill Franzreb said, "It feels great ... personally I'm a very poor picketer. I'm a great package car driver."

Franzreb said his bosses were glad to see him when he reported to work. "They greeted me with an open hand; there was no ill will. The management group in this area treated the strikes, and the whole incident, very well.

Watch CNN's Wednesday morning interview with Teamsters President Ron Carey
icon 5 min. VXtreme video

"They were very professional about it, as were the people on the picket line ... everyone kept their heads. It was a good result, a win-win for everybody."

UPS spokesman Neil Brawley said the Manhattan facility had called back 158 of its normal contingent of 600 employees.

"We anticipate at some point having everybody back while we deal with this backlog (of packages in the UPS system)," Brawley said. "Once we clear that out of the system, we realize that there is a certain percentage of our business that won't be coming back for the long term. Hopefully, we can keep that to a minimum."

Ron Carey

He said UPS would handle possible layoffs "on a day-by-day business."

Tentative settlement got unanimous OK

"Tonight the elected leaders of the local unions unanimously approved the agreement with UPS," Carey said Tuesday night, following the accord that effectively ended the 16-day strike. The walkout virtually crippled package deliveries nationwide.

First the contract was unanimously approved by the 50-member union negotiating team. Then Carey explained details of the proposal to a group made up of two representatives from each of the 206 union locals to which UPS workers belong.

A Teamster official said they then voted unanimously to accept the tentative contract, ending the strike that crippled package deliveries in the United States.

Teamsters to honor possible UPS pilot work stoppage

UPS also has been in negotiations with the Independent Pilots Association, which represents pilots who carry UPS cargo.

UPS pkgs being loaded

Carey said Wednesday he hoped UPS management would reach a agreement with the pilots, who have been working under an expired contract for more than 20 months.

"I certainly hope UPS will come to good decent terms with its pilots," Carey said. The pilots honored the recent Teamsters walkout.

Asked by CNN if Teamsters would honor an IPA picket line if the pilots strike, Carey said, "Absolutely."

The IPA has said pilots could strike against UPS around Christmas, if the union does not reach a new agreement with the nation's largest package carrier.

UPS still predicts layoffs

Carey repeated his contention Wednesday that the UPS warning that 15,000 jobs could be lost because of the strike was exaggerated, and had been part of a "scare tactic" in the strike-negotiation process.

But UPS managers said that while they were working to win back lost customers, the strike would still mean layoffs -- maybe as many as 15,000 workers. The company lost more than $300 million a week during the strike.

"Some of our good customers have signed long-term contracts with competitors," said company spokesman Ken Sternad on Tuesday. UPS has estimated that as much as 5 percent of its daily volume of 12 million packages has disappeared permanently.

But Carey said the company shouldn't worry.

"Our members are those individuals who really have got all these customers, have created the customers. The package car driver has great relationships. They will go out there and get the customer base back," he told CNN.

Steven Lewins, an analyst with Gruntal & Co., said customers will likely try to find shipping alternatives "so they don't get stuck in this position again. But when you control most of the market, how far can customers go?"

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