Canadian UPSers Pressured Into Accepting Contract

January 28, 2005: “If we do not accept [the contract deal], the company is telling us they will shut down. I believe only the members can respond to this threat by voting on this latest offer.” 

That’s how Larry McDonald, president of Toronto Local 938, recommended a new six-year contract to over 1,000 UPS Teamsters in Ontario. Teamster officials repeated this threat elsewhere to sell a deal that was actually worse than what the company offered before the two-day UPS Canada strike on November 22-23.

The second vote came on a contract with a six-year term, instead of the previously offered four-and-a-half. In exchange the union got a tiny pension increase for full-timers, from $55 per year of service to $56.50, and an additional 15 cents per hour wage hike for part-timers. Was this worth giving the company an extra 18 months? There is not even retroactive pay back to the August 31 expiration date!

Bogus Threat?

After calling a 36-hour strike, Teamster officials apparently figured that workers would “vote right” the second time, after the first deal was rejected by a 2-1 margin. To make sure, they added the threat of closure to the sales pitch.

UPS might close in Canada? The company is rapidly expanding all over the world. How likely is UPS to close up in a major industrial nation that is next door to the mother-ship U.S. market?  UPS Canada gets 40% of its volume from shipments to and from the U.S.

The November 22-23 strike caught the company off guard, since they had a deal with the officials. But that deal was rejected in locals across the country.

Several important issues triggered the rejection. Full-time wages are $21 Canadian per hour, $3 behind U.S. wages. The contract (both offers) provides only 60 cents per year in wage hikes; thus Canadian Teamsters will fall even farther behind their U.S. brothers and sisters. The pension is also far below what is provided in most plans in the U.S. The settlement contains concessions, like extended progression times to reach eligibility for benefits and union wages. UPS part-timers make less than those at Purolator and FedEx in Canada and comprise some 65% of the UPS Canada workforce.

Pilots Stand Tall

The deal—announced on November 23—came just after the pilots’ union said it would honor picket lines in the United States if the Teamsters union decided to block goods coming out of Canada.

“In the last 24 hours UPS has moved management pilots from the United States into Canada,” said Captain Tom Nicholson, president of the Independent Pilots Association. He went on to say, “IPA will honor any Teamster primary picket line established in the U.S. or honor any declaration by the IBT that there are struck Teamster goods moving in the UPS system.”

In marked contrast, the U.S. Teamster leadership did nothing to extend support before or during the strike. In fact, although this was the largest Teamster strike of 2004, it was never even mentioned on the Teamster website until it was over! (Then it got five sentences, with no mention of the strike issues.) No information was issued to the 200,000 UPS Teamsters in the U.S. or even to local unions, to build solidarity across the border. There were no offers of solidarity if picket lines came to the border or to U.S. facilities or air hubs.

UPS Teamsters in Canada now have a contract, and their comments indicate they have learned a lot in the process. UPS Teamsters have not been very involved in the life of our union in Canada, but it appears that is soon to change.

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