UPS: Layoffs possible despite deal

Associated Press Published:

But United Parcel Service officials warned of possibly 15,000 layoffs as the company struggles to rebuild business lost in a strike that idled 185,000 workers.

"We realize that our customers have suffered many inconveniences, and I want to assure them that our great service is going to be available to them very soon," David Murray, chief negotiator for UPS, said at an early morning news conference.

Approval of the deal may come as early as tonight.

The two sides agreed late Monday night to a five-year deal that includes the creation of 10,000 new full-time jobs from existing part-time positions. The company also will raise pay for full-time workers by $3.10 an hour over the life of the contract and agreed to keep a multi-employer pension plan.

Before the strike, an average full-time driver for UPS was paid $19.95 an hour.

After years of "taking it on the chin, working families are telling big companies that we will fight for the American dream," Teamsters President Ron Carey said. "This is not just a Teamster victory, this is a victory for all working people."

Teamsters leaders from around the country and members of the bargaining committee were flying to Washington today to consider ratification. Murray, who appeared with Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and Carey, added that the company hopes to welcome back the striking employees quickly.

UPS spokesman Ken Sternad told CNN "we have a plan to get our business up and running very quickly"' but "conceivably" up to 15,000 jobs might be lost.

"Certainly there are jobs that will not be there," he said at UPS headquarters in Atlanta. "Hopefully, through growth we will be able to replace them eventually. It will just depend on package flows."

Competitors rushed into the vacuum created by the strike and Sternad estimated 5 percent of UPS business might continue to be taken by them

UPS officials would not detail the concessions they won from the Teamsters, but Carey acknowledged the five-year plan was longer than he wanted.

On Martha's Vineyard, a vacationing President Clinton praised both sides for coming together.

"The issues that were at the heart of their negotiations are important to our nation's economic strength and to all Americans," he said in a written statement.

"This was nip and tuck until the last moments," chief mediator John Calhoun Wells said today on ABC's "Good Morning America." "It was about five minutes before we announced the agreement that the handshake took place."

Herman said the agreement is significant for the whole country because it takes historic steps toward providing health and retirement benefits for part-time workers. She gave no details.

"What we saw working was collective bargaining at its best," she said.

In Los Angeles, Lorenzo Cheeks, a part-timer who has worked 26 years for UPS, heard the news while he walked a picket line.

"I started off here as a student working my way through college and I got caught up in this UPS brainwashing. I got locked in," said Cheeks, 46. "When times were lean, I still hung in there. I should've brought up the part-time issue years 10 years ago."

About 58 percent of UPS jobs are filled by part-time workers, and their $8 an hour base salary has not increased since 1982. Under the deal, their starting wage would increase by 50 cents an hour.

The Teamsters, who represent nearly two-thirds of the 302,000 UPS employees in the United States went on strike Aug. 4. Their contract expired July 31.

On a normal business day, UPS moves 12 million bundles and parcels, or the equivalent of 5 percent of the nation's gross domestic product. But with the support of package delivery giant's 2,000 pilots, the Teamsters virtually shut the company down, leaving business owners scrambling to find alternative carriers.

Pressure on both sides escalated during the strike's second week. The company estimated its losses at up to $300 million in business each week and the union owed pickets about $10 million in weekly strike benefits.

The settlement capped five days of virtually nonstop talks in which Herman sometimes participated to maintain pressure on the two sides.

The Clinton administration had resisted calls from business groups to end the strike. The White House said the work stoppage did not pose a threat to the nation's safety and health, the standard for intervention under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.

"Today my faith in the collective bargaining process has been reaffirmed," Herman said when she announced the agreement. "The president and I always believed that the solution was at the bargaining table."

Herman had taken a room at the Washington hotel where the final

bargaining took place. "I wasn't trying to be subtle," she said on NBC's

"Today" show. "I was trying to be very direct. I moved in with

them."

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