UPDATE: UPS pilots set to vote on strike action
10 / 09 / 2015
Another airline is facing up to the prospect of strikes after a union representing UPS pilots announced it would hold a member vote to authorise industrial action.
The Independent Pilots Association, which represents 2,600 pilots at the US-based parcel and logistics giant, today announced that it would hold a vote of members to authorise the five-pilot executive board to request release from federally mediated negotiations with the carrier.
This would open up the option of going on strike if it is needed, a contact at the union said.
In response to the news, a UPS spokesman described the vote as "legally irrelevant".
IPA President Captain Robert Travis said: “UPS has stalled and delayed, unnecessarily prolonging our negotiations.
“UPS management has created a bitter standoff with its pilot employees. In sharp contrast, UPS arch-rival Federal Express recently announced a tentative agreement with its pilots.
“If ratified, the FedEx pilot deal will bring labour peace to our main competitor, given that the pilots are the only major employee group at FedEx covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
“A strike is the least desirable outcome of labour 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.”
The IPA will announce the result of its UPS strike vote on October 23.
The integrator issued the following statement to Air Cargo News: "As always, UPS intends to reach an agreement that rewards our employees and protects our competitive position.
"During the 27-year history of UPS Airlines, we have successfully negotiated four contracts with our pilots, who are the top earners in commercial aviation.
"We hope to reach a new agreement as quickly as possible. However, airline industry contracts often take multiple years to complete. This is due to the complexity of the pacts and the protections of the RLA.
"Under the RLA, airline contracts do not expire, they become amendable. Their terms remain in force while the new contract is negotiated.
"This is true even when the union employs tactics such as a strike authorisation vote, a routine show of solidarity in airline negotiations that is legally irrelevant to the actual proceedings."
The spokesman went on to say that UPS offered one of the best wage and benefit packages in the industry, along with one of the best safety records.
The union contact added that talks started between union and UPS representatives in August 2011, while mediated negotiations began in February 2014.
While a yes vote would move the prospect of a strike closer, there would still be several hurdles ahead of the union.
The ILA is governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA) and is permitted to strike only after exhausting the procedures outlined by the Act. Since 2005, six airline strikes have been permitted under the RLA.
UPS is not the only airline facing up to difficult negotiations with unions. Today, Lufthansa pilots held a second day of industrial action, grounding around 1,000 flights.
Meanwhile, Air France KLM is currently embarking on a cost reduction programme and is holding talks with its unions.
During the announcement of its half-year results, the airline said it would need to significantly reduce its long-haul network if an agreement could not be reached.
News reports suggest this could see up to 10% of its long-haul network cut by 2017.