Carriers, unions duke it out

The end of 1998 brought some uncertainty in regard to catalog and parcel carriers’ union relations. The good news: Federal Express pilots are likely to approve their first-ever contract with the carrier, ending the threat of a strike. The not-so-good news: As of late December, the U.S. Postal Service was still negotiating with one of its two largest unions, while the other union mulled over a contract proposal. (Federal law prohibits USPS workers from striking, however.)

At press time, the FedEx contract proposal was headed for the board of directors of the FedEx Pilots Association (FPA), representing 3,600-more than 94%-of FedEx’s pilots. The board was expected to ratify the proposal and send it to the rank and file, who were expected to approve it by early February. “This contract is a quantum leap forward, light-years from FedEx’s last proposal,” says FPA spokesman Bob Clement. He won’t reveal how much of a pay hike FedEx has agreed to, but a source says it’s nearly twice as much as the carrier offered this past March-an offer the pilots had rejected. The FPA has argued that its pilots’ career compensation falls 37% below that of pilots at United Parcel Service. Now their compensation will be virtually equal, the source says.

The contract “places FedEx pilots in the upper echelon of the airline industry,” says FedEx spokesman Jesse Bunn, who also won’t elaborate on the specifics of the contract. Nor would Bunn comment on the possibility of rate hikes to pay for the wage increase.

USPS offer ‘insulting’? Meanwhile, the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), representing 360,000 workers, or nearly half of all postal employees, was expected to vote in January on a contract that gives members a 6.75% raise over two years and a six-year no-layoff provision. But in mid-December, a week after the APWU and the USPS reached a tentative agreement, APWU executive vice president William Burrus called the deal “insulting” in a letter to union members. (Rejection of the deal would lead to binding arbitration.)

The agency was also slated to begin its second round of negotiations with its second-largest union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, representing 300,000-plus letter carriers, on Jan. 5.

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