Union: Pilot negotiations with UPS nearing 'critical juncture'

Union: Pilot negotiations with UPS nearing 'critical juncture'
Published: Apr. 19, 2016 at 3:18 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2016 at 3:18 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Will UPS reach a deal with its pilots in contract negotiations?

Or will some 2,500 pilots walk off the job?

The Independent Pilots Association says after five years of negotiations, it doesn't want to strike, but are serious about it and claim that one of Louisville's largest employers is playing a dangerous game of chicken.

PREVIOUS STORY: UPS pilots seek strike authorization

UPS maintains it has been working in good faith at the negotiating table, adding that talks are moving forward.

IPA, however, said pilots are prepared to walk if necessary after the longest contract negotiation to date with UPS.

"We've been in negotiations for five years," IPA President Robert Travis said. "Five years. And two of those years have been under federal mediation."

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The National Mediation Board could declare an impasse and release UPS and the Independent Pilots Association from mediation.

Last fall, 99 percent of pilots authorized the union's executive board to strike if necessary. And in recent weeks, IPA created what it calls a Strike Negotiations Center, complete with pilots tracking flight crews, manning phones to answer questions from other pilots and their families, and they are even preparing for pickets.

"We could have fought and won World War II in less time," Travis said, adding that the union is still waiting for UPS to come to the table with serious proposals.

What does UPS think about the new IPA Strike Negotiations Center?

"These are all typical union tactics designed to pressure negotiations," UPS Public Relations Manager Mike Mangeot said. He also said the reality is that talks are moving forward, UPS' pilots are important and they're doing their best to take care of them.

"They are the best paid (pilots) in commercial aviation at an average of $238,000 per year, plus two fully funded pension plans and the benefits at a discount," Mangeot said.

IPA says that while pay and benefits are on the table, the sticking point is safety. IPA claims UPS lobbyists used their power to carve its pilots out of federal rest rules that pilots for passenger carriers must follow.

"We fly the same airplane to the same airports to the same runways as the passenger carriers, but we're doing it tired on the backside of the clock," Travis said.

Countered Mangeot: "Our pilots typically fly about 10 days a month and only about 30 hours a month, which is about half of what a passenger pilot flies and we do that so they can stay rested."

UPS said safety has always been a top priority for the company.

So, what's next? Under the direction of federal mediators, IPA submitted its final list of proposals two weeks ago, and UPS is expected to do the same by the end of next week.

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