Living Under PSA: Strategies for Protecting Jobs and Health

November 4, 2004: At the recent TDU Convention, UPS Teamsters met to discuss contract enforcement and survival strategies. In the coming months we will report on some ideas that came out of the meeting.

With the PAS/Smart Label system being put in place, UPS package car drivers are contending with several changes. Routes are being changed and stop counts are up. At the same time, the risk of injury is on the rise. Now more than ever we need to find ways to protect ourselves.

We should remember that UPS management frequently stresses the importance of safe work practices. You won’t be any good to the company if injured permanently. One thing we can do is follow those methods: 

  • Drive the speed limit.
  • Don’t run.
  • Use hand rails.
  • Use the hand cart when it is needed.
  • Use help for the over 70 pound packages.

Another approach to working safe and protecting jobs is to make sure that we take the time provided in the contract for lunch breaks. Safety experts long have pointed out that taking regular breaks helps prevent injuries, especially the repetitive strain injuries that UPS workers are susceptible to.

We can also protect ourselves by using these three areas of the contract:
The 9.5-hour workday. The Hours of Work section of the contract states that we have a right to file grievances if and when management forces us to work continuously over 9.5 hours per day. If you have had to work three or more days per week over 9.5 hours, file a grievance.

Optional days. Each supplement has a provision for optional days. Under the Central Supplement we have to request them in writing eight days in advance. The company has to respond within 24 hours.

You do not have to give a reason for taking the day. Make sure you use your optional days and encourage co-workers to do so as well.
Relieved after eight hours. The contract also states that a minimum of ten percent of drivers and full-time inside workers in a center have to be given 8-hour work days, if requested. Say you have 60 people in your center, that means at least 6 can be relieved from overtime on any given day.

Remember that these contract provisions cannot be invoked during peak season. Once peak is over, however, you can be ready to start making use of them. Also, be sure to check your contract for any variations in this language.
Be prepared for management to say, “we’ve got people injured,” or “we’re short-handed.” Remember, it is their job to take this into account. By using this provision in the contract we take a small but important step towards protecting ourselves and having healthier work lives.

By taking all of these steps we will experience fewer on-the-job injuries—a positive outcome for workers and management alike, given the many costs associated with workplace injury.

Todd Hartsell
Steward, Local 90
Des Moines, Ia.

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