UPS strike: Union, UPS return to negotiations to avert strike

July 19 (Reuters) – United Parcel Service ( UPS.N ) said on Wednesday it would return to the bargaining table with a better offer for about 340,000 Teamsters-represented U.S. workers, in an effort to avert a potentially economically damaging strike on Aug. 1.

“We are prepared to increase our industry-leading wages and benefits, but must work quickly to finalize a fair agreement that provides security for our customers, our employees and businesses across the country,” UPS said in a statement.

The union said the world’s largest delivery company contacted it Wednesday with an offer to resume talks next week, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said in a statement on Twitter.

The talks broke down on July 5, with each side blaming the other.

A key point in the negotiations is wage increases for experienced part-time workers who earn about the same or even less than new hires because starting salaries have increased due to the labor shortage in recent years.

Any disruption to UPS’s business would be widely felt because the company handles about 20 million packages a day — about a quarter of package shipments in the United States. These include deliveries to online retailers such as ( AMZN.O ), high-value prescription drugs for doctors and hospitals, and inventory for millions of other businesses large and small.

A strike could be one of the costliest in at least a century, with the impact of a 10-day strike exceeding $7 billion, according to a think tank.

UPS pilots, who belong to another union, would also stop flying in solidarity with the striking workers.

The Teamsters have held “practice walks” in major cities around the country to keep pressure on UPS.

Despite all the noise and hand-wringing, many transportation executives and analysts believe the two sides will reach an agreement before the deadline.

That’s because each side depends on the other.

UPS called its skilled and loyal Teamster employees a competitive advantage early in the pandemic, when orders for everything from home workstations and exercise stations to couches and big-screen TVs overwhelmed delivery companies.

On the other hand, UPS is the largest employer of Teamsters at a time when unions are struggling to grow.

Meanwhile, Teamsters leader Sean O’Brien told Reuters last week that he has asked President Joe Biden not to intervene in the talks, even as retail groups and other interested parties push for the administration to weigh in.

“We believe an Aug. 1 strike at UPS remains possible but not yet likely,” Susquehanna analyst Bascome Majors said in a client note. “Official news that Teamsters-UPS negotiations will resume next week after a 2.5-week hiatus clears a path to ‘come to yes’ before deadline.”

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Priyamvada C in Bengaluru and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and Josie Kao

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Lisa Baertlein covers the movement of goods around the world, with an emphasis on sea transport and last mile delivery. In her spare time you will find her sailing, painting or exploring state and national parks.

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