July 14, 2024

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UPS and Teamsters accuse each other of walking away from contract talks

Negotiations between UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters broke down early Wednesday, raising the possibility of a strike just weeks before their contract expires.

The marathon negotiations, which lasted until the July 4 holiday, ended with each party accusing the other of abandoning this effort.

in statement, the union said UPS walked off the table around 4 a.m. after refusing to make “the last, best, last offer,” saying it had “no more to offer.” The union bargaining committee rejected the company’s offer.

“This multi-billion dollar company has a lot to offer American workers – they just don’t want it,” Sean O’Brien, general president of Teamsters, said in a statement. “UPS had a choice to make, and they clearly chose to go down the wrong path.”

But UPS maintains that the Teamsters are “off negotiating,” noting that there is still about a month left to finalize a deal.

“We have not withdrawn, and the union is responsible for staying on the table,” the company said in an unsigned statement.

It is the latest labor dispute to threaten the transportation pillar and the nation’s ecosystem. A nearly year-long dispute over wages and automation led to intermittent shutdowns earlier this year at several West Coast ports, though workers never officially struck, disrupting trade routes from Asia. President Biden should have personally intervened to avert a railroad strike last year.

The exit of UPS, the country’s largest shipping company, would disrupt the movement of freight and commodities across the country and would have serious repercussions for the economy. Approximately 6 percent of the country’s GDP is transmitted via UPS each year.

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Last month, union members voted overwhelmingly to allow the strike. The team captains said they would not work after their current contract expired at the end of July. As of early Wednesday morning, no new talks are planned, according to a statement from the union.

It is unclear what specifically remains to be done. Compensation was a major issue in the way of negotiations, as were questions about creating more full-time jobs and UPS’ reliance on a lower-paid delivery driver class.

The union has criticized the pay increases included in previous offers from the company, which they say do not keep pace with the cost of living for part-time workers in particular. Company drivers earn an average of $95,000 annually, and part-time workers earn an average of $20 an hour after 30 days.

The two sides reached agreements in principle on several points, including one to equip the new vehicles with air conditioning and on terms preventing the installation of driver-facing cameras.

The negotiations come as UPS grapples with declining revenue and stiff competition for its core business. The company reported first-quarter revenue of $22.9 billion, down 6 percent from a year ago. Operating profit fell 21.8 percent to $2.5 billion.

It has revolutionary competitors who are investing deeply in expanding their logistics networks. The US Postal Service is embarking on a $9.6 billion plan to electrify its fleet over the next five years with 66,000 new delivery vehicles, for example.

This is a developing story and will be updated.