Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Isle Teamsters to take
a vote on UPS strike

Local officials hope an agreement
will help avoid work disruption

By Rod Antone

Local union members of the world's largest delivery company are expected to take a strike authorization vote tomorrow.

The vote among Teamster employees of the United Parcel Service in Hawaii comes before the rest of the 210,000 UPS union members across the nation are scheduled to vote this weekend.

UPS, also the nation's largest employer of Teamsters, and the union began contract talks Jan. 30. The current contract ends July 31.

Mel Kahele, Teamsters Local 996 president, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

UPS company officials in Hawaii said the early vote was probably needed because members here need the extra days to get their ballots delivered to the mainland and included in the nationwide results to be announced Monday.

"It's not a real big issue because we've been negotiating for a couple of months already," said Lance Hirokawa, UPS human resources manager in Hawaii. "We are optimistic that we can reach a fair and balanced agreement in a timely fashion ... We want to avoid causing any type of disruption with our customers."

Hirokawa said management was hopeful that an agreement could be reached that would "reward our employees and still allow UPS to remain competitive."

Hirokawa estimated that UPS handles up to 25,000 parcels and packages a day, both commercial and residential, in Hawaii. UPS Teamsters here include about 130 full-time drivers and more than 100 part-time workers who load and unload trucks and aircraft.

The last nationwide UPS strike in 1997 lasted 15 days and cost the company $750 million in lost revenue as thousands of shipments to U.S. businesses were interrupted.

Earlier this week, more than 300 UPS union leaders from across the nation unanimously agreed to hold the national strike authorization vote.

"For a company that says it wants an early agreement, negotiations sure are moving slowly," said Teamsters President James P. Hoffa.

Ken Hall, the union's director of the Parcel and Small Package Division added, "It is time to step up the pace of the negotiations. We have to send a message to the company that our members are serious and that our union is serious.

"These negotiations are not progressing at a pace to finish by July 31."

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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