And it’s not because of Trump. 1,200 UPS aircraft maintenance workers have overwhelmingly voted to go on strike in a turnout percentage higher than the US Presidential Elections.
80% of these workers participated in the vote to strike or not, out of which, a whopping 98% voted authorised a strike.
Why did they vote to strike?
In 2015, UPS posted record earnings of US$4.84 billion in profits and has seven consecutive quarters of double-digit international profits.
Its stock was upgraded by many analysts following the strong third quarter and in September, UPS announced additional stock incentives and 10 percent raises for its top executives.
Yet, UPS decided to announce “massive reductions” in health benefits for their 1,200 maintenance workers, and reduction in benefits for retirees who spent their lives servicing the company’s planes.
According to their union, Teamsters Local 2727, many UPS gateways operate with just one aircraft mechanic per shift, meaning he or she works alone around massive aircraft parts and equipment, sometimes for up to 39 hours straight.
Workers commonly experience lifting injuries and accidents, repetitive stress injuries, hearing loss, inhaling toxic exhaust, and jet engine blasts as work hazards.
In 2008, one worker broke his neck when a truck he was parked in was blown over by the jet blast of a Boeing 747 aircraft.
A mechanic who voted for the strike explained,
“We work hard to make sure UPS planes are operational, on time, and above all safe. It’s a responsibility we take seriously and don’t expect much in return.
All we’re asking is to keep the health care we count on so we can stay healthy and keep UPS’s planes running for millions of customers around the globe.
Voting to strike isn’t an easy decision, but I had to stand up for good, middle class jobs and the health of my family.”
Was striking their first option?
Teamsters says the decision to strike comes after three years of negotiations with UPS over the workers’ wages and health benefits.
Tim Boyle, President of Teamsters Local 2727, said,
“No one wants to strike, but members voted overwhelming to authorize a strike because UPS is refusing to work with us. We’ll do whatever it takes to protect good, middle class jobs, our health and our families.”
What could stop the strike from happening?
Even after the majority of workers voted to go on strike, the union must still obtain government approval to go on strike, as these workers fall under the US Railway Labor Act.
First, the union must obtain an approval of a federal mediator under the National Mediation Board.
According to RT.com, the president may also have to appoint an emergency board that will decide on whether to grant that permission, in a process which includes several 30-day cooling off periods.
It is likely the union will have to go through Republican president-elect Donald Trump, but not sooner than his inauguration on January 20.
What if this were to happen in Singapore?
In Singapore’s dispute resolution framework, unionised workers must first go through mediation with the Ministry of Manpower.
If mediation fails, the union can choose to escalate to the Industrial Arbitration Court, or strike (but not both).
If the union wants to strike, it must first get a majority vote from its members, and inform Ministry of Manpower and NTUC.
Employees engaged in water, gas or electricity cannot strike.
Employees in an essential service (banking, telecommunications, health services, public transport etc) must give the employer 14 days notice.
So just like the US (and many other countries), there are quite a few layers of “permissions” the Singapore unions need to obtain first to be able to legally strike.
How will the strike affect us?
With the several 30-day cooling off periods, it is “highly unlikely” that the strike will occur during the Christmas holiday period, where UPS is expected to ship 700 million packages worldwide, including those from Amazon.com.
However, if it does go through, be prepared for your Chinese New Year packages to be delayed.