UPS union workers scored a major victory in their labor battle that could get them closer to averting a strike on Aug. 1. The shipping giant agreed to end its two-tier wage system Saturday in its ongoing contract negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union that represents more than 340,000 UPS workers.
Despite the triumph, the sometimes-acrimonious labor negotiations continue ahead of the current contract’s expiration of July 31. UPS has pledged to reach a contract agreement for covered workers by no later than July 5.
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The Teamsters were able to get two more big wins at the negotiating table, establishing Martin Luther King Day as a full holiday for the first time, and ending forced overtime on drivers’ days off.
“Gains made by the Teamsters at the national table with UPS today cannot be overstated. From the jump, UPS knew we demanded an end to forced overtime, the respect to take MLK Day as a real holiday, and the complete destruction of the unfair 22.4 wage system,” said Sean O’Brien, general president of the Teamsters, in a statement.
The 22.4 wage classification has been unpopular with union workers since it was established in 2018.
Under the current contract, UPS drivers are divided into the two separate tiers of full-time and hybrid drivers. Full-time drivers are called regular package car drivers (RPCD), work Monday through Friday and make roughly $42 in hourly wages, at least double that of the “22.4” hybrid drivers, who split their time between deliveries and working in the warehouses.
The Teamsters argue that UPS uses this tiered system to get lower-paid junior workers to deliver packages on weekends and cut delivery costs. The union alleges that these drivers are doing the same amount of work as higher-paid drivers who work on the weekdays, and should therefore earn the same pay and benefits.
Eliminating the classification moves the 22.4 drivers to full-time seniority status and adjusts their pay to the appropriate RPCD rate.
While O’Brien applauded these “critical” victories, he is not taking his eye off the ball, with negotiations from Sunday into Monday.
“Make no mistake—we are not done,” O’Brien said. “UPS knows we must reach full agreement on other economic issues, including higher wages, within the next few days. As we continue to reinforce, the #Teamsters demand that a historic new contract is in place by Aug. 1.”
On Sunday, the Teamsters also notched their final supplemental contract agreement with UPS, the 44th region-specific deal in total. Teamsters Local 710, representing 7,000 full- and part-time UPS employees in the Chicago area, reached a tentative agreement with UPS on a new five-year deal.
The tentative agreement was unanimously approved by the Local 710 UPS Bargaining Committee and resolves all non-economic issues for the local UPS membership. Economic issues are addressed under the ongoing national negotiations.
ILWU Canada head tells government to ‘stay out of our business’
Elsewhere in the North American supply chain, there isn’t much confidence that the recent dockworker strike at Canadian West Coast ports will reach a quick conclusion.
Approximately 7,400 dockworkers representing the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) went on strike Saturday after negotiations with their employers, the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA), failed to reach an agreement.
In a press briefing held outside the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services office in Vancouver, ILWU Canada president Rob Ashton had one warning for the Canadian government: butt out.
“The federal government must stay out of our business,” Ashton told reporters on Sunday. “If the BCMEA gets their way, and their way is to let the government make this collective agreement for them, there will never be labor peace on the waterfront.”
Ashton shared some of the frustrations among the union’s employees, highlighting that longshore workers “were called heroes” when dealing with the “unsafe conditions” of Covid-19 while employers “gorged themselves on record profits.”
He also criticized the BCMEA negotiations, accusing them of being slow to act while the union reacted “in record time.”
“Over the last few weeks before we issued strike notice, the employers would give us a proposal and we would respond that day,” Ashton said. “They then would take seven-to-10 days to respond to our proposal up until June 25, when they refused to respond to our proposal. They refused to meet with us. That’s when this union decided to take strike action.”
After 33 consecutive hours of negotiations, the talks between the two parties temporarily paused on Sunday evening, and the talks were set to resume on Monday, according to the BCMEA.