UPS, Teamsters accuse each other of walking out of contract negotiations

Negotiations between UPS and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters broke down early Wednesday, raising the possibility of a strike just weeks before their contract expires.

Marathon talks over the July 4 holiday ended with each side accusing each side of abandoning the initiative.

A Report, the union said, refused to make a “last, best and final offer” and walked away from the UPS desk around 4 a.m., saying it had “offered nothing more.” The company’s offer was rejected by the union’s bargaining committee.

“This multibillion-dollar company has plenty to offer American workers — and they don’t want,” Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said in a statement. “UPS had a choice to make, and they clearly chose to go down the wrong path.”

But UPS argues that the Teamsters are “in a deadlock” and have a month left to finalize a contract.

“We are not walking away, the union has a responsibility to be at the table,” the company said in an unsigned statement.

It is the latest labor dispute to threaten the backbone of the country’s transport and ecosystem. A nearly year-long dispute over wages and automation led to intermittent shutdowns at several West Coast ports earlier this year. President Biden had to personally intervene to prevent a walkout among railroad workers last year.

A walkout by UPS, the country’s largest shipping company, would disrupt the movement of goods and commodities across the country and have serious implications for the economy. About 6 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product moves through UPS each year.

Last month, union members voted overwhelmingly to approve the strike. Teamsters leaders have said they will not work until their current contract expires at the end of July. As of early Wednesday, no new negotiations were scheduled, according to a statement from the union.

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It is not clear exactly what to do. Compensation was a key issue heading into the negotiations, including questions about creating more full-time jobs and UPS’s reliance on low-paid delivery drivers.

The union has criticized pay increases included in the company’s previous offers, which they say don’t keep up with the cost of living, particularly for part-time workers. Company drivers earn an average of $95,000 per year, while part-timers earn an average of $20 an hour after 30 days.

The two sides have tentatively reached agreements on a number of issues, including the fitting of air conditioning to new vehicles and regulations barring the installation of driver-facing cameras.

The talks come as UPS faces declining revenue and significant competition for its core business. The company reported revenue of $22.9 billion in the first quarter, down 6 percent from last year. Operating profit fell 21.8 percent to $2.5 billion.

It has deep competitors investing deeply in expanding their logistics networks. The U.S. Postal Service has begun a $9.6 billion plan to electrify its fleet with 66,000 new delivery vehicles over the next five years.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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