Teamsters accuse UPS of reprisals Company says firings were prompted by pickets' name calling

'Healing process going on'

Docking workers' pay for appearance code violations is denied

Labor relations

September 03, 1997|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Two weeks after the Teamsters and the United Parcel Service of America Inc. reached an accord to end a 15-day strike, local union members allege that the company has started a harassment campaign to punish strikers -- a charge UPS denies.

Leaders of Teamsters Local 355 in Baltimore and Local 639 in Washington said about eight workers have been fired for strike-related activities and dozens more docked a day's pay for not keeping up with the company's appearance code.

UPS acknowledges the terminations, but not the appearance infractions.

"I think it would be beneath our professionalism to stoop to those levels of retaliation," said Marvin Stewart, UPS' regional employee relations manager who oversees the Baltimore and Burtonsville facilities.

"We have too much at stake. We still have a contract to ratify," he said. "There is a healing process going on in UPS."

A panel of Teamsters leaders voted unanimously Aug. 19 to accept the tentative contract. It now has to go to a secret ballot by Teamsters members for ratification.

But union leaders said the company has begun a "vindictive" campaign to punish some workers for striking.

At the Southwest Baltimore UPS facility, two shop stewards were terminated, allegedly for "strike line activities" such as calling managers scabs, said Dennis Taylor, president of Local 355, which represents about 800 UPS workers.

At the Burtonsville facility, the number fired stands at about six workers, said Phil Feaster, president of Local 355, which represents about 2,100 workers there.

About a dozen or so workers at each facility allegedly were sent home for a day for having wrinkled shirts, unshined shoes or unshaven faces -- all of which are violations of UPS' appearance code, the union leaders said.

"This is petty," Feaster said. "The strike is over and our people want to be at work."

The firings result from charges ranging from strikers threatening workers who crossed the picket line to verbally harassing them with racial slurs and sexually explicit comments, UPS officials said.

When UPS workers are fired, they are allowed to work until a panel of managers and Teamsters decides if the discharge is allowable.

"Several people have been discharged," said Neil McLens, a UPS human resources manager in Maryland. "It's our intention to hold people accountable for their conduct. We will not tolerate them name calling on the job or on the picket line."

Nationwide, UPS usually handles about 12 million packages a day. Since employees began returning to work, that number has increased to about 16 million a day, McLens said.

UPS has said repeatedly since the strike ended that there eventually will be layoffs, since the company expects that it will never recover at least 5 percent of its customer base.

In the days since the strike ended, there has been nearly a 100 percent recall of all of the striking workers, company and union officials said.

But more recently, workers have been fired, generally for misconduct on the picket lines.

Union leaders allege that there are dozens of trailers of undelivered packages sitting on UPS' grounds because the company will not let employees work overtime to process the load.

The company denies those charges, saying that since the strike ended, drivers have worked an average of nearly an hour's overtime a day.

"We are working hard to get things leveled out by the end of the week," McLens said, adding that there is no backlog of inbound packages at the Burtonsville facility.

In Baltimore, there were about 13 trailers holding about 17,000 packages on site, all backlogged from Friday, said Larry Wiles, a UPS industrial manager. All of those packages should be processed by today, he said.

Pub Date: 9/03/97

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