Fighting Discipline for Production

December 7, 2009: With profits down, management is turning up the pressure on package drivers.

What to do if management comes after you for production.

In a tough economy, UPS is squeezing Teamster drivers more than ever. Management’s goal is to increase drivers’ stops per hour. The company has even produced a standardized warning letter for “Failure to Maintain Demonstrated Performance Levels.”

Whether it’s a warning letter or a meeting in the office, the message from management is the same: maintain your Stops Per On-Road Hour (SPORH) from your OJS ride or face discipline.

UPS drivers owe the company a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Drivers who are trying to beat the system can be disciplined. But our union contract does not recognize the SPORH or any other production number.

That doesn’t stop UPS management from trying to use SPORH’s as a basis for discipline. How can we protect ourselves—and other Teamsters—if management comes after us for production?

Dismantle the Company’s Case

Management’s argument that a driver can maintain the same SPORH every day—especially on OJS days—doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Every driver knows that no two days are the same. There are too many variables—number of stops, size and type of packages, weather, traffic, etc.—for us to maintain the same SPORH day in and day out.

Keep a daily log book and take special note of exceptional problems: traffic, construction, vehicle problems, customer delays, etc.

Good records dismantle the company’s case by demonstrating that the company is comparing different input and arbitrarily expecting the same output.

Remember, the burden of proof is on the company to prove that you are not meeting your obligation to a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.

That Special Day

Keeping good notes of what happens when you have an OJS is especially critical. Make sure to note how your route and load differs from your typical days.

Your preloader and drivers on neighboring routes can contribute valuable information, including whether the load was adjusted (or if the preloaders’ start time was adjusted) on OJS days. Many cell phones come equipped with cameras that can provide handy snapshots of bad loads—or the discrepancy between the load on an OJS day and other days.

If a supervisor touches a package or holds a door, make a note of it. The contract clearly says, “If a supervisor assists a driver during an OJS, that day will not be used in determining a fair day’s work” (Article 37.2).

Protect Your Work Record

If management is coming after you for production, they will try to build up a case over time.

“The first thing is protect your work record,” says Mark Day, a shop steward in Chicago Local 705.

If management gives you a letter, grieve it. If you don’t they can use it against you later. The company can even use verbal warnings against you later—if they make a record of it in your Pittsburgh.

“We’ve found all kinds of notes in member’s files by managers where they say they talked to a driver about poor job performance,” Day said. “We put in a rebuttal letter and get it on the record that the driver is meeting the contractual standard of a ‘fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’ and that every day’s load is different.”

Most states have laws that guarantee you the right to see your personnel file, so use the law to keep track of what is in your file.

“Don’t let management dirty up your personnel file and build a case against you,” says Day.

How to File a Grievance

Most of the time, management stops short of discipline. But warning letters are on the rise.

Answer all discipline with a grievance—citing violations of Article 37, Article 6 and all others that apply.

Article 37 says that, “The parties agree that the principle of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay shall be observed at all times.”

Article 37 also states that, “The Employer shall not in any way intimidate, harass, coerce or overly supervise any employee” and that UPS will give “due consideration to the age and physical condition of the employee.”

Article 6 bans any “Extra Contract Agreements”—and applies when management tries to make employees maintain a SPORH or other production quotas that are not recognized by the contract.

Using Information Requests

Article 4 requires the company, upon request, to provide the Local Union or designated shop steward with documents and information that is “reasonably related” to a pending grievance.

When a production grievance is filed, the following information should be requested by the Local:

  • A complete copy of the employee’s personnel file.
  • All evidence, including investigatory notes, that management used to make its determinations regarding any possible discipline.
  • Operations Reports for all days in the time frame indicated by management as the “SPORH” time frame plus 30 days on both sides of the time frame. Where applicable, the union should request telematics reports for the same days.
  • OJS Reports including a copy of all management notes, memos, electronic data, or comments.
  • A copy of the most recent Time Study report for the route. This will allow you to show how changes in the route would be expected to affect your overall SPORH.

For more information on protecting yourself from production harassment, contact TDU at 313-842-2600.

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