First Big Contract Test at UPS

February 18, 2008: UPS has launched a new contract-busting program to use air drivers to pick up ground packages at a substandard rate of pay.

This is the first big test of the new UPS contract. Our International Union must answer the call and stop the company from undermining high-paid, full-time jobs at UPS.

UPS announced on Feb. 15 that it now accepts ground packages in its drop boxes and that Air Drivers will pick up these ground packages at their regular pay rate.

In a management memo obtained by Teamsters for a Democratic Union, UPS claims it has the green light from the International Union for this scheme, which directly violates the contract.

Article 40 expressly prohibits Air Drivers from handling ground packages except under a narrowly defined “exception basis.”

Any violation of this language requires UPS to pay Air Drivers who deliver ground packages “the top regular package car driver wage rate” in their building. The top pay rate for package car drivers is more than $28 an hour—compared to as little as $11.50 for Air Drivers.

The only exception outlined under Article 40 is when an Air Driver is making a pickup “after the regular driver has been to the customer’s premises, and the customer has an exception ground package(s) for shipment.”

This language draws a clear line in the sand. It exists to stop UPS from eliminating package car jobs by using lower-paid Air Drivers to handle ground packages. UPS’s new Drop Box program doesn’t just cross the line; it eliminates it altogether.

In a management memo, UPS claims that the International Union agreed to this scheme as part of the new contract. The memo states that, “The new labor agreement provides UPS with the flexibility for all drivers to pick up all packages in UPS Drop Boxes. Part- and full-time air drivers and package car drivers can pick up ground packages with no change in pay rate.”

The memo goes on to state that “The new Joint UPS/IBT Competition Committee will review this initiative in six months”—suggesting that the International Union discussed the new program under the committee which was created under Article 26 of the new contract.

Even if that were true, the UPS/IBT Competition Committee does not have the authority to rewrite Article 40 or any other contract language.

With or without union approval, UPS is moving full speed ahead. Drivers are being instructed to post new decals on drop boxes that say, “UPS Ground, Air and International Packages accepted here.”

Management’s memo makes it clear that the program will be expansive and that Air Drivers will be picking up ground packages on far more than an “exception basis.” The memo outlines instructions for how to respond to increased volume at drop box locations.

If UPS management wanted to renegotiate Article 40, they should have brought their proposals to the bargaining table and put them to a membership vote.

Management is free to expand its drop box program to include ground packages. But until our contract expires in 2013, these ground packages are to be handled by package car drivers. If UPS needs to create more package car positions so be it.

Our International Union needs to communicate clearly to both UPS and to Teamster members where it stands on this new program—and the company’s contention that it is allowed to use Air Drivers to handle ground packages “with no change in pay rate.”

In the meantime, stewards and working Teamsters at UPS need to have our eyes open and file grievances on drop box violations. Our grievances should demand that Air Drivers who handle ground packages out of drop boxes be paid the highest package car driver wage rate and UPS cease and desist from this practice.

Click here to see the management memo on Ground in UPS Drop Boxes.

Click here to report what’s happening in your area on this issue.

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