UPS jobs in doubt

August 22, 1997


Staff Writer

After putting in 28 years with United Parcel Service, driver Art Lucas said he didn't fear for his job when his union went on strike against the company on Aug. 4.

But Lucas said he also knew - based on how things were after the strike of 1976 - that co-workers with less seniority couldn't count on having a job waiting when the picketing ended.

"I knew I was going back, but a lot of people didn't realize the situation they were getting into," said Lucas, one of the small number of full-time workers called back to work at the Hagerstown UPS center on Wednesday.


Although the plan is to bring more workers in each day as the volume of packages creeps back to normal, it could be a while before several dozen local employees get back to work, company officials said Thursday.

UPS officials warned Tuesday of a possible 15,500 layoffs nationwide as the company struggles to rebuild business lost during the 15-day Teamsters strike.

At this point, it looks like between 10 and 15 percent of the roughly 300 Hagerstown and Frederick, Md., UPS workers idled during the strike "will not be called back any time soon," said UPS spokesman Vince Scarfo.

"They're not all back because we do not have enough volume," Scarfo said. "We're slowly gearing the system back up."

There have been a "minimal amount" of layoffs at the Hagerstown center, which employs about 200 workers, said administrative assistant Ann Holland.

Almost all laid-off workers are part-timers, who under union protocol have to give up their positions to more senior full-timers when there's not enough work to go around, Holland said.

But four or five of them are full-time package drivers, she said.

Holland said the situation should be temporary for most of the workers.

"We're hopeful. And each day we're adding more and more people as demand rises," Holland said.

As of Thursday afternoon, 36 of the 88 Teamsters employed at the Chambersburg UPS center hadn't been back to work yet, said operations manager Mark Johnson.

There just isn't the volume to warrant bringing everyone back, Johnson said.

The center delivered only about 2,400 packages Wednesday and about 4,000 Thursday, compared to the pre-strike daily average of 9,000 packages, he said.

And the amount of packages coming into the center was much lower than expected, Johnson said.

Because of the low volume, drivers have been able to take over package sorting duties normally done by part-time employees, he said.

Johnson said he has made a day-by-day plan for calling workers back based on anticipated volume.

He said he hoped to have 80 percent of his workers back by today.

While UPS will work hard to regain lost business, the company anticipates some customers will either keep all their business with competitors they turned to during the strike or spread it out among several companies, Scarfo said.

"When the union called this strike, customers were kind of left holding the bag," he said. "There are some pretty angry customers out there. They don't want to be in a situation again if the union calls a strike."

Just days before the strike ended, Hub Labels in Hagerstown signed a contract giving Federal Express a large portion of the business it used to give UPS, said Vice President of Operations Thomas Dahbura.

The company ships 200 to 250 packages a day, Dahbura said.

"It's a shame. UPS has done such a great job. But you've got to look out for number one, and that's our customer," he said.

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