Crossing the Line on Safety Quizzes

June 26, 2008: When it comes to safety audits, some UPS managers are not following proper methods.

By now, most drivers are familiar with UPS’s pop quizzes on the 10-Point Commentary and other company safety-speak.

The company has decided it’s not enough for drivers to work safely and follow proper methods.

They want us to recite their methods word-for-word like Big Brown parrots.

The company can make us play the game, but there are limits. And some managers are stepping over the line.

Heavy-Handed Tactics

A supervisor at a north Georgia center recently told package car drivers at a PCM that it is a “condition of employment” to know the company’s safety tips by heart. The supervisor said it was a member’s responsibility to study the rules on their own time.

Atlanta Local 728 shop steward Matt Higdon correctly pointed out that while the rules may be good to know, they are not a condition of employment. UPS can’t make us study them on our own time and UPS is not permitted to discipline drivers for their performance on a safety quiz.

Later, when Higdon couldn’t answer a question during a safety audit, management threatened to discipline him on false charges of refusing to answer the question. No disciplinary action was taken, but Higdon was scheduled for daily “tutoring” sessions on the clock.

Instead of filing a grievance for being singled out, Higdon got other members involved.

A group of drivers started talking up the issue and prepared to tell management they wanted the same opportunity to get paid safety training.

Management abruptly cut off Higdon’s classes. But the drivers in his center are prepared to request equal access to safety training at overtime pay if other members are singled out in the future.

“Management should know that these kinds of heavy-handed tactics turn people off,” Higdon said. “Sticking together as a group is the best way to send them that message.”

Know Your Rights

Promoting safety is one thing. Using safety quizzes as a cover to harass drivers is another.

In a few cases, UPS has even tried to take drivers out of service without pay based on their performance on a safety quiz. This is completely against the contract. To make sure our managers don’t cross the line, we need to know our rights—and spread the word to other UPS Teamsters.

The company can require you to participate in safety audits, complete quizzes, and even study their safety tips. Do not refuse to answer questions. Do not tell management that you refuse to learn the rules.

UPS cannot force you to study safety materials or answer safety quizzes on your own time. You have the right to be paid for any time you are directed to review materials or answer tests. Insist on your right to be paid and back it up with a grievance if necessary.

Under the contract, UPS does not have the right to discipline you for answering questions incorrectly. In the unlikely event that this happens, file a grievance immediately for discipline without just cause.

Our contract is on our side on this issue. It’s up to us to use it.

Contact Teamsters for a Democratic Union for more information or assistance in enforcing your rights.

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