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UPS preparing for potential for strike affecting freight customers

Sandy Springs-based UPS is telling its freight customers to make alternative shipping plans because of the potential of a strike as a union contract vote looms.

UPS Freight, which handles bulk shipments on pallets from shippers to stores and other businesses, has about 11,000 workers represented by the Teamsters who will vote on a re-negotiated labor deal by Nov. 11. 

A much larger contract -- covering about 240,000 UPS drivers, package sorters, loaders and others who handle small packages -- failed to get a majority vote in favor but has been deemed ratified by the Teamsters.

Because the small package contract has been ratified, UPS said: “Customers can remain confident UPS is ready to continue to serve its small package customers throughout the holiday season and beyond.”

UPS Freight workers voted Oct. 5 to reject a tentative labor agreement, sending both sides back to the negotiating table. Their current labor contract was extended until Nov. 12.

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The company and Teamsters completed their most recent round of talks Oct. 25, and UPS made an offer it said should be ratified.

“We are disappointed that the Freight Teamsters union leaders have chosen to announce the potential for a strike, should their members vote ‘no’ on the offer,” UPS said in a written statement. “The company has now begun discussions with UPS Freight customers to inform them of the potential for service disruption and the need to arrange alternative carriers.”

“Because we do not have a guarantee against a work stoppage, we cannot afford to put our customers’ volume at risk of being stranded in our system,” UPS said. “Therefore, we will work to empty our network of freight by Friday, November 9.”

The UPS Freight workers’ votes on the proposed contract will be counted Nov. 11.

“With a ‘yes’ vote, normal service will resume Monday, November 12, or shortly thereafter,” UPS said.

The Teamsters members have already voted to authorize a strike. If the contract is voted down, as of Nov. 12 a strike by freight workers is possible if approved by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ negotiating committee.

The Teamsters told its members that its negotiating committee won changes, though the company’s last, best and final offer “does not sufficiently address the issues raised by the members.”

The union told members its negotiating committee “makes no recommendation for or against this offer,” but “we have agreed to forward it to you for your acceptance or rejection as the consequences of this decision are yours alone to make.”

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