UPS, Teamsters Agree to Install Air Conditioning in Trucks
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Negotiators for UPS Inc. and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have reached an agreement on a key point in the talks concerning working conditions for the tens of thousands of drivers who make deliveries to businesses and homes. In an announcement June 13, the IBT said the company had agreed to equip its delivery and logistics vehicles with air conditioning systems, new heat shields and additional fans on the trucks.
The union says the language in the agreement mandates the company equip in-cab air conditioning systems in all larger delivery vehicles, smaller sprinter vans, and all of UPS’ brown package cars purchased after Jan. 1, 2024.
“Air conditioning is coming to UPS, and Teamster members in these vehicles will get the relief and protection they’ve been fighting for,” Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien said in a statement to Transport Topics. “The union’s entire national committee and our rank-and-filers should be commended for staying in this fight and making their priorities known to this company.”
The familiar package delivery vehicles make up the majority of the company’s 93,000 vehicles within its fleet.
The union said once the five-year contract is ratified by the membership, two fans also would be installed in the cabs of all package vehicles. The new, non-electric UPS package cars and vans would be installed with exhaust heat shields, further protecting drivers from heat. Also, new and purchased package cars going forward would be retrofitted or equipped with air induction vents in the cargo compartments to alleviate extreme temperatures in the back of the vehicles.
In addition to air conditioning, vehicles would be retrofitted or equipped with air induction vents in the cargo compartments to alleviate extreme temperatures. (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News)
Several months ago, UPS President and CEO Carol Tomé said the company took the issue of the driver exposure to excessive heat seriously and she believed an agreement could be reached on this issue.
“We are aligned on several key issues, like solving the staffing needs for weekend deliveries and ways to mitigate the summer heat in our package delivery vehicles,” she said early in the contract negotiations. “While we expect to hear a great deal of noise during the negotiations, I remain confident that a win, win, win contract is very achievable and that UPS and the Teamsters will reach an agreement by the end of July.”
The union also has insisted that this contract contain language that modifies or eliminates the two-tier, lower wage system that UPS weekend drivers are paid.
The Teamsters said the face-to-face negotiations between the union and management were set to resume June 14 in Virginia, which gives the two sides slightly more than six weeks to reach a comprehensive, five-year agreement. O’Brien has pledged the workers will not work without an agreement.
Still, for the first time in recent weeks, O’Brien said progress is being made at the bargaining table.
“We are here to protect more than 340,000 UPS Teamsters and get the best contract in the history of our union with this company. Today’s progress was a significant step towards a stronger new reality for so many workers and their families,” he said.
The union also said it had reached tentative agreements on more than a dozen issues within subcommittees and are preparing new proposals to present to UPS at the national table.
Meanwhile, union members are expected to soon announce the results of a strike authorization vote that O’Brien asked for, indicating a yes vote would give his team more leverage at the bargaining table. UPS, anticipating a likely yes vote, said an authorization is a normal part of the collective bargaining process and it is confident an agreement can be reached by July 31 when the contract expires.
“This vote is a routine part of the bargaining process and does not mean that there will be a strike,” UPS said in the emailed statement.
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In addition to the agreement over working conditions for the drivers, on June 1 the two sides said they had reached a deal on contract language on another issue.
Per the union, a tentative agreement has been reached on a reduction in the size of UPS SurePost packages that are eligible to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
UPS describes the SurePost service as an economy service for non-urgent, business-to-consumer deliveries. Under the existing contract, UPS makes the initial shipment pickup and USPS makes the final delivery, seven days a week. Packages handled by USPS must meet certain weight and size requirements to qualify as a SurePost package. If the parcel exceeds the limits, it can be redirected back into the UPS system for distribution by a union driver on a UPS truck.
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“We’ve reached tentative agreement on the article, subject to ratification of the contract, to reduce the overall size of packages eligible for SurePost delivery, so more existing volume is going back onto Teamster trucks rather than coming off,” the union said in a statement to Transport Topics.