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Talks resume in UPS strike

Associated Press Published: August 14, 1997 12:00 AM

With a couple dozen reporters and TV cameras waiting in front of a Washington hotel, Herman and Teamster President Ron Carey entered through another door, according to people close to the talks.

A federal mediator, John Calhoun Wells, arrived by the main door, saying only that negotiators had arrived to "practice our craft."

Today's meeting was billed as a discussion, not negotiations, indicating the two sides remained far apart.

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"While there is no reason for optimism at this point, we will be there, ready to negotiate," Carey said earlier.

The two sides agreed to return to the table on Day 11 of the strike at the urging of Herman, who was expected to open the discussion. Herman said Wells, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, would continue to guide the talks.

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"I am pleased both sides have agreed to come back to the bargaining table, and I urge them to stay at the table until they reach a settlement," she said. "The key now is for both parties to find a new way to look at the issues and find a solution at the table."

A Labor Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Herman "will be assessing their progress and will be available to both sides as needed."

"The pressure that the secretary of labor is putting on both parties to resume negotiations is crucial," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said today on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"This is a critical moment" for labor unions, he said. "UPS is a part of the new economy and has been making a lot of money and yet their goal seems to be more and more part-time jobs, and fulltime workers understand this and feel threatened themselves."

While Herman was credited with restarting the talks, the Clinton administration has ruled out direct intervention to end the strike.

UPS, which normally ships 12 million items daily, has been virtually shut down since 185,000 Teamsters went on strike Aug. 4 after the two sides failed to reach agreement on a new contract to replace one that expired July 30.

The company, which earlier held a news conference to showcase messages it had received from employees who want to vote on the company's last contract offer and return to work, didn't immediately comment on Wednesday's announcement.

Matt Witt, Teamsters spokesman, said there was no reason to believe UPS was willing to change its contract proposal, which the union has criticized for not providing enough limits on part-time work.

"We won't know until we get there. There is no sign that anything has changed _ no signal that anybody has given us, no wink, no rumor, nothing," Witt said.

The Teamsters are also unhappy with a company proposal that would change control of employee pension funds.

Meanwhile, the American Heart Association urged a quick resolution to the standoff, and a pilots union called on other fliers to refuse packages shifted from UPS' grounded cargo jets.

"Airlines carrying struck UPS goods are only making matters worse for everyone. By helping UPS limp along, they are prolonging the strike," said James Sutton, vice president of the Independent Pilots Association, which represents 2,000 UPS pilots who have honored the Teamsters strike.

The IPA said three airlines _ Evergreen International, Southern Air Transport and Transcontinental _ have agreed to not fly struck goods.

In letters to UPS chief James P. Kelly and to Carey, Dick Davidson, president of the American Heart Association, said a prolonged strike would present problems for hospitals and clinics.

"For now, the problems posed by the strike are relatively minor," Davidson said. "But if both sides are looking for a reason to resume negotiations, the positive effect that an end to the strike would have on the health care system is a very good one indeed."

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