Stopping Excessive Overtime, Saving Teamster Jobs

November 14, 2008: Enforcing our 9.5 protections against excessive overtime can save Teamster jobs in a recession.

UPS made after-tax profits of $1.6 billion in the third quarter. Brown is still the nation’s largest transportation company and still incredibly profitable, thanks to hard-working Teamsters.

But with the economy slowing down, UPS is looking to cut jobs and squeeze us even more.

After reporting a drop in volume for the third quarter, UPS’s Chief Financial Officer Kurt Kuehn told investor analysts, “We’re working hard to right-size our network for 2009.”

That’s corporate-speak for reducing jobs.

It’s happening already. UPS is cutting routes in some areas and forcing package car drivers to work unwanted excessive overtime.

Jobs on the Line

We don’t have the power to tell the UPS how to run its business. But we do have the right to hold the company to the contract.

Enforcing our 9.5 protections against excessive overtime is not just a matter of saving drivers’ sanity and family lives. In a recession, it’s a matter of saving members’ jobs.

Winning excessive overtime/9.5 grievances has become a major problem under the new contract. While some 9.5 grievances are being paid, the company is deadlocking many more at the grievance panels.

UPS is claiming all kinds of exceptions that were not bargained in the contract. Management says that “high mileage” and “high density” routes are exempt from Article 37 and that drivers on those routes cannot file 9.5 grievances.

In some areas, the company has tried to argue that they will only pay excessive overtime grievances on a small percentage of routes.

UPS’s goal in deadlocking grievances is to try to leverage new restrictions out of the 9.5 Committee—a joint company-union committee created by the contract that has the power to make new rules governing excessive overtime.

The 9.5 Committee met in San Diego at the national grievance panel. But nothing was resolved.

That suits the company just fine. By deadlocking and stalling, management has successfully bought time while they violate the contract. Now we’re in the November/December period when the 9.5 language does not apply.

New opt-in/opt-out lists are supposed to be posted for January when the issue of excessive overtime becomes even more serious. CEO Scott Davis told investor analysts that the company expects lower-than-usual volume next year.

In 2009, our union needs to be more effective holding the company to the 9.5 language they agreed to in the contract. Or drivers will be forced to work excessive overtime, while other drivers are laid off.

Taking Action

Coordinated rank-and-file action, including grievances, can protect Teamster jobs. A recent example from Local 804 in New York shows how.

UPS reduced the route of a senior package car Teamster and shifted his work to other drivers. On some days, the 18-year senior driver was forced to work as a cover driver.

“Drivers got together and agreed to file 9.5 grievances if we were forced to work excessive overtime because packages were diverted to our trucks. If a driver was swamped with overflow packages, other drivers didn’t volunteer to help out. If supervisors shuttled packages or made deliveries, we filed grievances on that,” said shop steward Liam Russertt.

As a result, management restored the driver’s route. By working together and filing 9.5 grievances, Teamster drivers can reduce layoffs and save Teamster jobs in 2009. But we need the backing of the International Union at the grievance panels.

If the International Union continues to let UPS stonewall 9.5 grievances, the price paid by working Teamsters won’t just be more hours in the truck. It will be more layoffs.

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