This week, Teamsters Package Division Director Denis Taylor met with a delegation of Nordic labor union leaders who represent UPS workers in Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
The delegation included representatives from the United Federation of Danish Workers, the Swedish Union for Service and Communications Employees, the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union, the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union AKT and the Nordic Transport Workers’ Federation.
“We have upcoming negotiations with UPS and while we expect the negotiations to be contentious, our day to day concern is enforcing the contract and holding them to what they have already agreed to,” Taylor explained to the European labor leaders, who were in Washington, D.C. as part of a delegation led by Steve Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).
Teamsters and Nordic union representatives in the room acknowledged the different nature of UPS operations in the U.S. versus countries in northern Europe where the company employs a smaller number of workers but is looking to expand in the region. They also discussed the significant differences in U.S. labor laws and the system that governs union representation in European countries.
In Nordic countries, UPS’s presence is mostly limited to warehouse and airport operations. For example, in Denmark, the United Federation of Danish Workers represents about 100 UPS workers who make the equivalent of $24 an hour. UPS workers in northern Europe enjoy better labor relations with the company, which Taylor said is a function of how small the company’s presence still is in those countries. The contracts in Europe are also negotiated with the entire industry, not just UPS.
Still, UPS labor union leaders on both sides of the Atlantic face some similar challenges. Taylor and the other union representatives spoke about threats from competition, where DHL is a major competitor in Europe. They also discussed the risks caused by automation, and how e-commerce and Amazon in particular have changed the industry’s landscape in the U.S. and Europe.
Subcontracting, misclassification and outsourcing to low-wage labor were also topics during the meeting. European unions are grappling with the influx of Eastern European truck drivers who are paid substantially less than Western European drivers and are displacing workers in their countries, a practice known as “social dumping.”
Union representatives in the meeting, which was held at the Teamsters headquarters, recalled the effectiveness of international solidarity during the 1997 UPS strike and pledged support for each other in their future dealings with the company. Nordic labor leaders told Taylor they would be closely watching upcoming contract negotiations in the U.S. and would be ready to offer their solidarity when and if it is needed.
The current National Master Agreement, which covers more than 250,000 UPS Teamster members in the U.S., expires on July 31, 2018.
Negotiating committees for UPS and UPS Freight are still at the early stages of the bargaining process. Supplemental committees have been meeting individually and will continue to meet over the next two months to exchange proposals with the company and engage in multi-day negotiating meetings. After these supplemental meetings and peak season, national negotiations will begin in January.