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UPS, pilots begin negotiations today
Talks will stress collaboration at urging of mediation board
By Bill Wolfe, The Courier-Journal
Talks between United Parcel Service and the Independent Pilots Association begin today in Louisville with a new approach to negotiations that both sides hope will quickly lead to a new contract.
Louisville-based UPS Airlines and the association, which represents 2,520 UPS pilots, agreed this year to a proposal from the National Mediation Board to use ''interest-based'' bargaining. That's a negotiating technique that stresses collaboration and consensus over the more confrontational approach of traditional bargaining, said UPS spokesman Mark Giuffre.
With the new approach, ''both parties agree on the issues to be discussed in a given bargaining session,'' and then ''collaborate to reach consensus,'' he said.
In traditional bargaining, each side presents a vision for a contract, then they haggle over details. Interest-based bargaining requires labor and management to share their goals and information in a process that advocates say builds trust and cooperation.
''Both sides say, 'Here's our interest in this. Let's come to some sort of common ground,' '' Giuffre said.
The pilots' association sees pilot fatigue and flight scheduling as pressing contract issues. UPS has called pay and crew scheduling its key concerns.
Negotiators for both sides reported to Washington, D.C., on Oct. 15 for a week of joint training in the bargaining style, which is being used for the first time at UPS. Two weeks later, they met again in Louisville to go over the ground rules for the contract talks.
Negotiations will continue every other week, with a December holiday break, Giuffre said. The pilots' contract falls under the National Railway Labor Act and does not expire, but reaches what is called an ''amendable date,'' when provisions are subject to change, on Dec. 31 next year. It's not uncommon for contract talks to continue for years past the amendable date. Strikes can be authorized only as a last resort.
Capt. Bob Miller, president of the Louisville-based pilots' association, said in a written statement yesterday that there are ''a number of major issues that the company needs to address,'' but ''we are hopeful we can reach agreement on them. By sitting at the table together from the beginning, we believe constructive solutions can be found.''
The interest-based negotiations will have a mediator present from the outset, which ''will help speed the process and hopefully lessen controversies often associated with negotiations,'' Miller said.
The new approach ''can also help control destructive behavior during the negotiations,'' because discussions center on objectives, not specific contract provisions, Giuffre said.
The new technique also means that ''most of the discussion is being done at the table,'' rather than in private meetings away from the negotiations, Giuffre said. ''That really helps facilitate trust.
''It's less of a poker game and more of a collaborative effort.''
Carrie Donald, director of the Labor-Management Center at the University of Louisville, said interest based bargaining is typically used in industries where strikes are not an option, such as certain government jobs and private-sector industries such as railways and airlines. ''It seems to work for those industries,'' she said.
''It has been used by the teachers here in Jefferson County. I think they have found it effective.''
The last contract agreement between UPS and the pilots' association came in 1998 -- two years after the amendable date. UPS is hopeful that the new negotiating format will lead to an earlier agreement this time.
The early start to negotiations is a big change from the previous contract talks, which began shortly before the contract came due for renegotiation.
The pilots have not spelled out specific wage demands, but want to be paid at the top of their profession, Miller said in September.
Last we knew:
UPS had reached contract agreements with its Teamsters drivers, hub workers and airline mechanics, but still faced negotiations with the Independent Pilots Association, which represents 2,520 UPS pilots. The association highlighted pilot fatigue and flight scheduling as key contract issues.
Talks begin today and could easily continue a year or more. But both sides hope a more open, cooperative negotiating format will bring a relatively speedy conclusion.
Why it's news:
The 1996 pilots' contract wasn't secured until 1998. Louisville-based UPS Airlines would like to put the labor issue to rest with an agreement before the end of next year, when the contract can be amended.