LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A tentative five-year labor contract between UPS and its union fails to sufficiently boost rank-and-file employees’ wages while creating a new tier of lower-paid delivery drivers, according to a longtime official with Teamsters Local 89, the union’s Louisville-area chapter.

James DeWeese, a business agent with Local 89, said the agreement falls short in many ways, but it’s too soon to say how the local will recommend its members vote when they are asked to ratify the deal this month or next.

“There’s a lot of things we have concerns about – that we feel are concessionary and unacceptable for the working families” represented by the union, DeWeese said in an interview Thursday.

UPS and the Teamsters’ national negotiating committee said June 21 that they had agreed to a deal lasting to 2023, but the agreement must be ratified in a national vote, as well as local and regional agreements.

Covering about 260,000 people, it's one of the largest labor contracts in the country.

The agreement affects about 12,000 UPS employees in the Louisville area, such as package handlers at its Worldport air hub, delivery drivers and “feeder” drivers behind the wheels of semi-trucks.

While highlights of the labor contract were released last month, the full text of the deal was not made public until Tuesday.

The current labor contract adopted in 2013 is set to expire Aug. 1, but the company and union will likely extend it for a month to allow more time to get the new contract in place around Sept. 1, said Denis Taylor, the union’s chief negotiator of the contract, on a conference call Tuesday.

It’s not unusual for the Louisville local to be at odds with the union's national leadership based in Washington, D.C. Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman has been highly critical of International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James Hoffa, and Zuckerman nearly unseated Hoffa in a 2016 election.

DeWeese: Starting pay should be $15 per hour

The tentative deal would raise starting pay for part-time employees – the lowest-paid employees at the company – from $10 per hour to $13 when it is adopted. That will mean immediate raises for current employees who are paid less than $13.

The starting wage would eventually reach $15.50 in 2023, according to the deal.

But considering the company’s profitability, rank-and-file workers were expecting a starting wage of at least $15 per hour, DeWeese said.  

“It’s absolutely unacceptable for our members,” he said. “…The money is there, and our members need their fair share of what they produce.”

New form of delivery driver  

Perhaps the most controversial issue in the contract is the creation of new form job in which a lower-paid, part-time worker, such as a package handler, could become a fulltime “combination” worker.

The hybrid workers would perform duties such as package handling during part of the week, and work as delivery drivers during the other part. They would have schedules that would allow Saturday and Sunday work, as UPS is considering starting Sunday delivery.

But the combination workers would be paid less than regular package car drivers – for the most senior workers, about $30 an hour for the combination workers, compared to $36 for the regular drivers, DeWeese said.

“The loss of $6 per hour… for performing the same work, that’s what’s unacceptable to us,” said DeWeese, who is also running for a Kentucky House of Representatives seat representing Nelson County.

Combination drivers and regular drivers would start at similar rates --$20.50 and $21, respectively, according to the contract. But the gap would widen as each worker progresses over four years to the “top rate” for the job.

After three years, regular drivers would be paid $28.75 per hour, compared to $25 for combination drivers.

UPS could only create one combination driving job for every four regular driving jobs, though exceptions are possible, according to the agreement.

Karen Deniz, a spokeswoman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, declined to respond to DeWeese’s criticisms.

“To rebut mischaracterizations of the agreement point by point is not helpful to our members,” she said. “We encourage our members to read the entire agreement for themselves to see all of the benefits it contains.”

UPS, for its part, said it's confident all remaining issues can be resolved.

"UPS’s objective is to reward our employees for their contribution to our success, provide flexibility to keep our company strong, and meet the needs of our customers and other stakeholders," spokesman Jim Mayer said in an email.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All rights reserved.