UPS workers to vote on labor deal

Workers in the small package and freight units at UPS soon will vote on new five-year labor deals that could bring pay raises and increased company contributions to their health-care and pension benefits.

Reaching the deals early — in advance of the July 31 expiration of the current five-year contracts — allows UPS to avoid the threat of a strike that could drive customers to competitors like FedEx.

If approved, the two deals will take effect Aug. 1. Details of the pacts were not disclosed.

The agreements between Sandy Springs-based UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters cover nearly 250,000 full-time and part-time workers, including drivers, loaders, unloaders, sorters, dockworkers and clerks — making it the largest collective bargaining agreement in North America. The negotiations started last September.

Under the deal for workers in the package business, 140,000 employees will move from UPS health plans to Teamsters health plans, which the union said maintains strong benefits “while growing the funds for Teamsters in all industries into the future.”

The company said the deals “allow UPS to remain competitive and flexible in a challenging marketplace.”

For the shipping giant, striking the agreements early can enable it to avoid a repeat of the Teamsters’ two-week strike in 1997 against UPS.

Since then, negotiations have been smoother, with the last Teamsters deal struck a year early in advance of federal legislation on pensions that was about to take effect. The agreement reached in 2007 allowed UPS to withdraw employees from the Teamsters’ Central States pension plan to create a single-employer plan.