UPS aircraft mechanics approve new contract

More than four years after negotiations began, UPS aircraft mechanics have ratified a new contract that raises their pay retroactively and requires no contributions to health care costs.

The contract covers more than 1,200 aircraft maintenance technicians and related workers employed by UPS Airlines. Nearly 90 percent of members of Teamsters Local 2727 voted in a secret ballot over a 30-day period and approved the contract by a 69-to-31 margin.

The contract initially became amendable Nov. 1, 2006, UPS spokesman Norman Black said, and negotiations began shortly thereafter. The contract will again be amendable in 2013.

Bob Combine, president of Local 2727 in Louisville, Ky., said the union is pleased with the contract.

"I can't think of anything we absolutely had to have that we didn't get," he said.

The union had threatened to strike as negotiations continued last year, but federal officials rejected the bid. Because the negotiations were handled by a federal mediator, the mechanics did not have the authority to strike on their own.

Combine said UPS' initial request to reduce benefits and raise the costs to employees started the long negotiation, and the bad economy exacerbated it. On average, the mechanics -- who are responsible for certifying that UPS' 216 heavy jets are airworthy -- have been with the company for 15.5 years.

Union members will continue to make no contributions toward their health care costs, Black said. They will also remain the highest-paid maintenance team in the industry. Black said members would see a 17 percent wage increase over the life of the contract, to a top rate of $50.31 an hour.

Members will receive retroactive raises as a lump sum, though Black could not say how much UPS would be paying out.

The company will next begin negotiations with its pilots. Their contract becomes amendable Dec. 31.