NC union concerned about UPS 70-hour work week as holiday deliveries spike


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Unprecedented online orders the week after Thanksgiving left web-based retailers smiling and delivery services stressing.

Some UPS customers saw delays in the past two weeks due to the continuing expansion of e-commerce, said UPS Vice President of Public Relations Steve Gaut.

“This year cyber weekend and cyber week overall, the week after Thanksgiving, was much stronger for the retailers than expected, hence it was also much busier for UPS,” Gaut said.

“As a result of the additional volume we received beyond our operating plan, we had to add one or two days to time and transit for packages that were delivered by UPS for last week.”

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UPS also had to add hours for many of its employees. Union representatives for Triangle-area UPS employees said drivers learned Dec. 1 they would be shifted to work 70-hour weeks instead of the 60-hour schedules they anticipated.

“When you’re working 70 hours a week, and you’re delivering packages, you’re getting in and out of that truck, 200, 300 times a day, it becomes, I believe it becomes very unsafe, and that’s a concern for our union and a concern for our members,” Teamsters Local 391 Vice President Rick Armstrong said.

“Morale is poor. They’re exhausted. I mean, they’re working very long hours and they don’t see any end in sight. It’s still the first, second week of December and they’ve still got two or three more weeks.”

Armstrong said UPS failed to prepare for the increase in volume of its shipments. He said the company should have hired more drivers for the holiday shipping season. Armstrong said there are between 400 and 500 full-time package drivers in the Triangle, and he estimates current demand calls for another 200.

Gaut said UPS hired about 95,000 seasonal employees who either work in sorting facilities or ride on vehicles with drivers to help drop off packages at doors. That number is the same as the past few years, in response to the company finding itself extremely short-staffed in 2013 when it hired only 55,000.

The union filed a grievance this week which said increasing the number of hours drivers work creates safety concerns.

“The company should have prepared better for this, hired more full-time drivers, hired more temporary drivers, and they did not, and they’re in a position where it’s on the backs of the workers, of our members who are drivers and are working just extraordinarily long hours and long days,” Armstrong said.

Gaut said the Department of Transportation permits the increase in shifts.  He said DOT permits driver work schedules of 60 hours over seven days and 70 hours across 8 days. Once a person hits that total, the driver must have a 34-hour rest period before they may begin another shift.

“We acknowledge (the union has) concerns and acknowledge their disagreement, but at this point we have to take care of the customers. We have no choice but to get that done at this time of year,” Gaut said.

“At this point, we’re focused on making sure that we do what we have to do to get packages delivered.”

UPS expects to deliver 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and the end of December, up from 712 million in 2016. Gaut said this is a result of increased demand from customers to deliver to residential addresses.

 

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