UPS employees begin returning as delivery giant makes sluggish return
ATLANTA (AP) _ Thousands of United Parcel Service workers ready to go back to work Wednesday instead were laid off as the delivery giant sluggishly began recovery from the 15-day Teamsters strike.
The company didn’t immediately release any nationwide figures on the layoffs, which came at several locations from Atlanta to Portland, Ore. The company said it will add workers as business increases.
``All of our jobs depend on our volume level,″ UPS spokesman Rick Warlick said. ``Any businesses that have gone away as a result of the strike may mean fewer jobs.″
Other former strikers put away their picket signs, put on their brown shirts and shorts, and began calling on customers again. Many said they were warmly greeted.
``People have been saying `Welcome back’ and `Congratulations,‴ said driver Michael Reppucci as he made deliveries in Boston’s financial district. ``Everyone’s glad to be back to work. It’s been tough on everybody.″
He said people honked at his truck, waved and pumped thumbs-up at him.
At Century Spring Co. in Los Angeles, driver Victor Vasco was greeted by smiles and handshakes as he arrived to pick up packages.
Some reactions were cooler, though.
``It’s about time,″ was the message Paul Mapstone had for his UPS driver at Eastern Metal-USA Sign, which ships traffic control products around the Southeast from Atlanta. Mapstone said the strike hurt the business, and he thought the walkout was unnecessary and ``a lot of whining.″
In Illinois, UPS workers were still on the picket lines Wednesday despite the settlement because two local unions are negotiating separate contract. Chicago-based Locals 705 and 710, covering about 15,000 UPS workers in Illinois and part of Indiana, remained off the job.
Local union leaders were optimistic they would reach a quick settlement.
UPS has estimated the strike cost at least 5 percent of its business, but said it probably won’t be able to better assess its losses until next week.
``We’re going to have very uneven patterns at first,″ UPS spokesman Norman Black said.
UPS’ daily volume fell during the strike to 10 percent of its normal 12 million parcels and packages. The company expected a quick, large surge as customers shipped packages that had piled up during the strike, followed by a leveling-off next week.
UPS has said more than 15,000 jobs may be cut because of lost business. The company didn’t immediately release any figures Wednesday on number of workers back on the job or business volume.
Some 35 percent of 4,671 workers in United Parcel Service’s mid-South offices were laid off Wednesday, said Doug Ashcraft, a UPS manager in Little Rock, Ark.
``To the degree that our customers come back will dictate whether those jobs come back,″ Ashcraft said.
About 1,200 part-time workers were laid off in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In Oregon and southwest Washington, a total 684 workers _ 257 of them full-timers _ were laid off Wednesday. A handful of Atlanta drivers were turned away Wednesday morning.
Company salespeople telephoned or called personally on thousands of customers to discuss the new, five-year contract and UPS’ return to business, UPS said.
Some customers said they would keep at least some of their business with competitors who filled in for UPS.
``We have to recognize the Herculean efforts of the U.S. Postal Service in fulfilling our needs and that of our customers while UPS was down,″ said Scott Bracale, of Bass Pro Shops Inc. in Springfield, Mo. He said the company would keep half of its 70,000 to 100,000 shipments-per-week business with the Postal Service.
``I think UPS has been hurt and there are a lot of other businesses very favorably impacted,″ said Harvey Ishoff, president of Hackensack, N.J.-based 800Spirits, a wine-and-spirits gift business. He said his and other businesses discovered that many small, local delivery services were available and capable to pick up UPS customers.
The contract still must be ratified by the 185,000 UPS Teamsters, and some were reluctant to embrace it.
``I’ve been here a year and I only get a $1 raise,″ said Chereta Stephenson, a part-time loader in Cayce, S.C.. ``We don’t get profit-sharing again. I have to be here four years before I reach $11 an hour.″
She was disappointed that the company’s profit-sharing offer, which would have given part-timers $1,530 and full-timers $3,060 this year with another future payment tied to profit margins, was folded into overall wage-and-benefit increases in final bargaining.
``I guess we’re glad that it looks like an agreement has been reached,″ said Jim Kabell, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 245 in Springfield, Mo. ``We want to see the details. It’s kind of like a `show me the money’ type of thing.″