UPS aircraft mechanics and other maintenance workers will return to the negotiating table with the logistics company next week — but a union leader doubts the parties will reach an agreement, which would move them closer to a strike.
Tim Boyle, president of Teamsters Local 2727 — which represents 1,300 employees, including about 550 in Louisville — told Insider the parties remain at an impasse, especially over health benefits, and he expects the union will ask mediators to be released from negotiations, which could mean a strike as early as mid-November.
However, a company official dismissed the statements as “union rhetoric.”
“The simple reality is, negotiations continue at the pace and timing directed by the National Mediation Board,” company spokesman Mike Mangeot said. “There is no linkage between our talks and our busy holiday season; our customers remain in good hands with UPS.”
The parties have negotiated for more than three years, and Boyle said proposed changes to health benefits for current employees and retirees remain the major sticking point. Mangeot said, “Benefits are one of the issues we are discussing.”
Boyle said some of the mechanics, after working 25 years around aircraft, suffer significant injuries from repeated lifting of tires to the point their shoulders, backs and other joints leave them unable to continue to work. Others suffer hearing loss because of the noise around planes.
When those union members retire early, they need insurance to help pay for their health care until age 65, when they become eligible for Medicare, the government health insurance for the elderly. Union members have had that health insurance bridge benefit since 1988 and have made concessions over the years to keep it, Boyle said.
Today, that insurance benefit costs a union member and his dependents about $3,700 per year, Boyle said. The company wants to raise the price to an annual $19,401. That price will make the benefit unaffordable, he said. In addition, the company wants to make changes to health benefits for current workers, too, he said.
Mangeot told Insider via email the company’s mechanics have “one of the best jobs in their career field, earning over $105,000 per year, plus benefits and a robust retirement package.”
“Our mechanics are good people who do a great job of taking care of our airplanes,” Mangeot said. “UPS, in turn, has done a great job of taking care of them.”
Boyle said UPS workers make about $5 less per hour than their colleagues at FedEx, even though UPS employees handle more work, with some putting in 36-hour shifts or working two weeks straight on 16-hour shifts.
The union had authorized a strike late last year and made a counter offer to the company’s proposal early this year, which the company essentially ignored, Boyle said. The union asked the National Mediation Board in April to be released from negotiations. However, that board told the parties to continue to work out their differences.
Boyle said Tuesday that the parties remain at an impasse, and he does not expect that to change when they continue negotiations for three days next week, starting on Aug. 29. If the parties make no progress next week, Boyle said the union will ask the NMB again to be released from negotiations. A strike could begin as early as mid-November, he said.
Mangeot previously has said that contract negotiations in the airline industry often take many years because of the complexity of the Railway Labor Act, the federal law that governs airline contract talks.
“UPS continues to negotiate in good faith for a contract that’s good for our mechanics, the company and our stakeholders,” he said this week.
The company’s CEO, David Abney, was in Louisville this week to support infrastructure spending and legislative changes to the tax code, especially a lowering of the corporate and personal income tax rates.