UPS Mechanics Complain of Faulty, Dangerous Equipment

Mark Elias/Bloomberg News

The union representing aircraft maintenance workers at UPS Inc., including those at the hub at Ontario International Airport, claimed in court the company has repeatedly failed to keep workers safe on the job.

The complaint, filed last week in Kentucky federal court, calls on UPS to immediately halt the use of more than 100 lifts that allow workers to reach the mechanical components of aircraft. The lifts rise 25 feet, according to the union.

“All employees who work on the damaged lifts face an imminent risk of severe injury or death,” according to the legal paperwork.

UPS ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

Teamsters Local 2727 has repeatedly raised concerns with the company and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding malfunctioning lifts and truck booms it says have dropped workers on multiple occasions.

“Our position is the lifts are unsafe, and we haven’t determined the cause,” union President Tim Boyle said. “We’ve asked them to quarantine them until we figure out the cause. That’s why we filed the injunction.”

The judge met with both parties Nov. 29 and gave UPS until Dec. 9, to respond in writing to the union’s complaint and advised both parties they could try to settle.

Boyle met with UPS officials Dec. 1, and the package delivery company said it would send Atlanta-based Exponent, an independent, third-party engineering analysis firm, to check out the lifts. Boyle said the union still is deciding whether to agree to the firm and whether to settle.

“If we can’t come up with a resolution, the judge will schedule the preliminary hearing for a later date,” Boyle said.

Earlier this month, a 19-foot lift collapsed while a union member was working on the left wing of a 767, according to the union. The worker was not critically injured, according to the union. Documented injuries related to the lifts date more than two years, and the union filed OSHA complaints in November at the state and federal level concerning lift safety.

“We keep UPS aircraft safe and running on time; we contribute every day in a big way to the success and growth of this company. In return, at the minimum, we expect our health and safety to be a priority for UPS,” Rusty Stephens, the union’s safety chairman, said in a statement.

UPS spokesman Dan McMacken confirmed that the lifts at issue are in use at the Ontario UPS facility, but “all [lifts] have been inspected and deemed in proper and safe working condition,” he said in a statement.

“UPS places the highest emphasis on the safety of our people, equipment and facilities. Our operations meet, and often exceed, federal safety standards,” McMacken said.

He added that the “grossly exaggerated claims” are an “apparent attempt to influence the bargaining process.”

Aircraft maintenance workers at UPS earlier this month voted to authorize a strike after three years of negotiations during which UPS has continued to demand health care concessions and a major hike in retiree employment costs.

The union said UPS is calling for a massive reduction in benefits for retirees.

“We believe everyone’s energies are best spent at the bargaining table, working under the direction of the National Mediation Board to achieve a mutually favorable agreement.”

The union, Boyle said, will return to the bargaining table for negotiations next week.

“If we’re still in the same place, we’re hoping the mediator will release us to go on strike,” Boyle said.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC