Teamsters, UPS agree on some contract terms, teeing up talks on pay

Negotiations progress as Aug. 1 deadline looms.

In contract negotiations between Sandy Springs-based UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the two sides have come to agreement on dozens of matters to clear the way for talks on pay and other major issues.

The Teamsters have voted to authorize a strike against UPS if the two sides don’t come to an agreement by Aug. 1. That does not mean a strike is planned, but is a common bargaining tactic used by unions in labor talks to gain leverage.

But the union also said this week it had reached tentative agreements on 55 non-economic issues, including a deal for UPS to add air conditioning to trucks.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ UPS contract is the largest private collective bargaining agreement in North America, covering about 340,000 workers.

“We’ve never done this as efficiently as we have” in this UPS negotiation, said Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien in an update to members Wednesday evening. “That is the most types of agreements we’ve had (at this stage) and we’re not even done bargaining yet.” The terms would be subject to approval by members once a final agreement is reached.

UPS also said in an earlier update that negotiations in subcommittees had “made strong progress,” agreeing on topics including safety and health, subcontracting and overtime rules.

The union is now launching the most significant part of the negotiations — seeking major pay raises across the workforce; improvements in health benefits and pensions; elimination of a two-tier pay system and elimination of the company’s hiring of drivers using their personal vehicles.

UPS, for its part, has remained upbeat in its communications about the labor talks.

“UPS remains confident we will continue progress to reach an agreement before the end of July,” the company said in its latest update.

The Teamsters said among the agreements reached so far is one in which UPS would agree to meet with the Teamsters at least 45 days before the introduction of new drones, driverless vehicles or other technology. If they don’t reach agreement, it would go to arbitration.

Another agreement would prevent UPS from using cameras facing its drivers in vehicles from being used to collect data for disciplinary action, according to the union.

The Teamsters said the two sides also agreed to tighten restrictions on the size of packages that can be handed off by UPS to the U.S. Postal Service to deliver as “SurePost” packages. That would “put millions of packages back” into UPS vehicles, “creating thousands of new Teamsters jobs,” O’Brien said.

An agreement has also been reached for drivers to not be forced to work over 60 hours, though they can volunteer to do so, according to the union. And a new section agreed to would require bargaining in the event of another pandemic.

Other agreements the union said it has reached are for break time and space for breastfeeding at work, to allow UPS employees to have their cell phones inside facilities without management approval and to impose certain limits on subcontractors.

Another point of agreement is for the company and union to develop a program to prevent dog bites, a hazard for drivers delivering packages to some homes.

UPS declined to comment on the specific agreements reached so far.

The Teamsters said it has submitted to UPS its proposed economic package for the contract Wednesday.

“Bargaining is going to continue seven days a week... ‘til we get this thing done,” O’Brien said. “If we don’t get it done, then we’re going to hit the streets.”

“From our perspective on our side, we can get it done on time,” O’Brien said. “Now it’s up to the company and how serious they’re going to be about it.”

The union also plans to increase pressure on the company by having its members practice picketing.

That’s aimed at “making certain UPS understands how serious we are,” O’Brien said. “This fight is solely dependent on our will, courage and conviction, but most importantly, unity among our rank and file members.”

Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman said training “doesn’t mean you’re going on strike. What it means is we’ll be ready to strike if it’s necessary.”

“We don’t want to go on strike, but if we do, UPS will be striking themselves,” Zuckerman said. “That’s up to UPS.”