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UPS Pilots Vote to Approve Strike, Seek a Release From Contract Talks

September 02, 2005|From Bloomberg News

Pilots of United Parcel Service Inc., the world's largest package delivery company, voted to allow their union leaders to seek an end to contract talks and approved a strike if an agreement with the company couldn't be reached.

Members of the Independent Pilots Assn. voted 2,382 to 21, or 99%, in favor of both actions, the union said Thursday.

The union hasn't determined when it may ask the National Mediation Board to release it from talks, union President Tom Nicholson said.

Approval of a request to end talks would move the union closer to a strike against UPS. The pilots can't strike unless they are released and other legally required steps occur. Air shipments accounted for $9.2 billion, or 35%, of the Atlanta-based company's almost $27 billion in package revenue last year.

"This vote has taken us into an entirely new phase," Nicholson said. "The executive board is empowered to ask for the release, and the NMB can grant a release at any time."

The union decided to delay seeking a release while the nation focuses on recovering from Hurricane Katrina, he said.

But UPS officials say they are committed to continuing talks.

"There is no threat of a strike regardless of the outcome of the vote," said Peggy Gardner, a UPS spokeswoman. "UPS is required to continue working while we are in mediation."

UPS has "no reason to believe" a request to be released from talks would be granted by the mediation board, she said.

The two sides began talks in October 2002. Representatives of the union and company met with the mediator for two days in August. No talks occurred during those meetings, and further negotiations haven't been scheduled by the mediation board.

In voting to approve a strike, the pilots effectively rejected a UPS offer made before talks were recessed by the federal board on June 23. The pilots voted 2,356 in favor of a strike and 15 against in an initial vote May 12. UPS has never had a strike by pilots. It reached the current contract in January 1998.

The pilots' main concern in talks is protecting jobs against outsourcing, Nicholson said. Pay, pension and benefits also remain unresolved. UPS pilots had an average annual salary of $175,830 in 2004.

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