Pilots union threatens strike over UPS contract - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Pilots union threatens strike over UPS contract

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  The union representing about 2,600 pilots who fly UPS aircraft said Wednesday that its members will be asked to authorize a potential strike if the airline and the union can’t resolve differences over a new labor contract.

"We've been in contract negotiations with UPS for four solid years.  It's time that we start ratcheting up the heat a bit and get UPS moving so that they can sign a contract with the pilots so that we can get on to doing what we do best, and that's getting things done fast," said Independent Pilots Association spokesman Brian Gaudet. 

Despite the move by the IPA, “there is no real threat of strike,” a UPS spokesman said Wednesday.

That’s because under the Railway Labor Act, a federal law, any airline strike has to be authorized by the National Mediation Board and even in that case,  the law provides a “series of fail-safes” including intervention by the president and Congress, UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot said.

About 1,700 of the pilots union’s 2,600 members are based at UPS’ global air hub in Louisville.

The union’s last contract with UPS ran through Dec. 31, 2011 and the two sides have been unable to reach a new labor agreement since.

Last year, talks moved to mediation before the National Mediation Board.

Sticking points include wages, healthcare, pensions and flight scheduling, among other issues.

The average UPS pilot covered by the contract earns $238,000 annually, according to UPS. Captains, who rank higher than first officers, are guaranteed $255,128 and typically earn about $290,000, according to UPS.

The union's 2,600 members will vote soon on whether to authorize its five-member executive board "to request a release" from the federally mediated negotiations.

Results of the vote will be announced Oct. 23, according to a news release from the union.

"A strike is the least desirable outcome of labor negotiations, but after four years of contract talks with UPS we've reached a point where UPS needs to hear loud and clear from our membership that they are willing to do whatever it takes to secure an industry leading contract," said Capt. Robert Travis, the union's president, in the statement. "UPS has stalled and delayed, unnecessarily prolonging our negotiations. UPS management has created a bitter standoff with its pilot employees."

UPS' Mangeot said the company "continues to negotiate in good faith for a contract" and is "confident these negotiations will be completed without disruption in our service."

According to federal law, UPS' previous contract with the pilots remains in force until a new agreement is signed.

Mangeot said given the federal law protections and "complexities" of an airline contract, it's "not uncommon" for negotiations to take 2-4 years to complete.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

Note: A previous version of this story contained two quotations incorrectly attributed UPS. 

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