Potential for Change With Contract Negotiations

     The 2013 Contract Negotiations will begin in ernest this fall. There is much speculation what will, and will not, be discussed. One of the key components will be the outcome of the national elections. Will our government be supportive of labor, or will it be supportive of the corporations.
     A corporate supportive government will empower the company to stand firm against the Union because they know that the support in a potential strike would be behind the company, allowing for replacement workers, and the potential for the company to be allowed to work without a contract, weakening the Union’s position in the negotiations.
    Keep these things in mind when you vote this fall. Your job situation may depend on the outcome.
     Some of the points of discussion are as follows;
     Many of you may not understand that the company puts a dollar amount on the table. That dollar amount encompasses not only wages, but includes the cost of your healthcare, and your pension contributions. Putting more money into one category means taking out of another.
     The speculation now is that most of the increases in the economic package will go to the benefits end. Healthcare costs have risen to the point where they eat up most of any increases in the economic package. That leaves very little to go to wage increases. The common wisdom is that most UPS drivers are being paid above the industry norm, so rather than increase wages noticeably, the increases will be put into benefits to minimize the out of pocket costs to the individual worker.
     The expectation would be that wage scales will remain fairly flat for the term of the next contract.
     For the part timers, proposals have been made to keep the wage rate at least 3 dollars an hour above the federal minimum wage level. Also changes in the benefit package could come again to part timers, as a cost savings to the company for healthcare. The reason part timers keep getting beat up in negotiations is because it’s common knowledge that they simply don’t vote. They are also very transient, and most of the parts timers here today, will not be here tomorrow.
     As far as the general working language is concerned the usual major concern is over nine-fives, and lunchbreak times. Our contract is considered a mature contract. The remedies for nine-fives has been discussed over and over on every level. The fact is, drivers have the ability to have their hours reduced, if they put forth the effort. We could go into a discussion here about the drivers responsibility to bring things to management’s attention, and not be afraid to file, but we’ll save that discussion for later.
     There is a push to get the driver’s lunchbreak reduced to a half hour from one hour it is now. Drivers seem to have the delusional thought that if their break was only a half hour, they’d get off a half hour earlier. We all know the reality is that the company would simply fill up that time with more work, keeping the driver from getting home any sooner. My feeling is we won’t see any change in that department.
     I’m sure there will be discussions on present, and future technological changes and how they affect the driver’s day. Hopefully the contract will join the 20th century in dealing with the disciplinary issues that result from todays delivery process. In thirty some years it never did, and my expectations are low that there will be much change here.
     Retirees major concern will be the cost of the retiree’s healthcare. Retiree’s currently pay $200 per month for their healthcare per person. That could change in the next negotiation. Obviously an increase would be devastating to retiree’s on a fixed income. I have no speculation as to what will happen here, I just hope the retiree’s don’t take it you know where.
     The other issue at stake for future retiree’s (those that retire after August 1st, 2013), will be the UPS guarantee of the pension benefit amount in conjunction with the Central States Pension fund. Since the UPS removal of drivers from the Central States Pension Fund the fund has struggled to maintain benefit levels. The drivers that have retired under the current agreement have a guarantee from the company that benefit levels will remain the same regardless of what happens to the Central States Fund. In the 2013 negotiations, that guarantee is not automatically renewed, so if it isn’t, future retiree’s could be subject to reductions in their pension payments if the funding levels of Central States are reduced.
     These are just a few of the issues at stake. Like usual there is a certain amount of apathy and what I call the UPS attitude, “Let someone else take care of it, I have more important things to worry about”. Most drivers couldn’t tell you what they have today, much less what any changes would mean to them. Of course they are the first ones to bitch about the strength of the Union. But that’s also a discussion for another day.
     The hope is the contract will be decided early so it’s imperative that you all make your wishes known through your Local Unions as soon as possible. Sit down with your significant others and discuss things that may be important to you.
     Also, each and every one of you needs to look carefully at what you are voting for in the upcoming elections. Are those candidates supporting your issues? Do those candidates understand what it’s like to be in your situation? Am I helping myself, and my fellow Teamsters when I pull the pin on the voting machine?
     Make wise, and educated decisions. Don’t vote out of ignorance.