UPS and aircraft mechanics agree on contract

After four years of negotiations, UPS Airlines and the Teamsters have tentatively agreed on a contract that would give UPS aircraft mechanics their first raise since 2005.

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The deal resolves a dispute that led mechanics to discuss a possible strike last year, partly over UPS’s use of foreign companies for some maintenance. However, federal law significantly restricts airline workers’ ability to strike.

The agreement must be ratified by members of Teamsters Local 2727, which represents about 1,200 mechanics and other employees who service UPS cargo planes. A vote is expected soon.

About 40 percent of the local’s members are based in Louisville, where UPS has its main air hub.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced the agreement Monday. Its airline division, Local 2727 and the National Mediation Board were involved in the negotiations.

The agreement includes “an industry-best” top wage rate, retroactive pay, continued free health benefits, and “company concessions that will bring vendor work in-house,” the international said in a statement.

The statement didn’t give wage details. UPS has said mechanics’ pay ranges from $21 to $43 an hour, with about 90 percent getting the top rate.

Bob Combine, president of Louisville-based Local 2727, said he didn’t want to comment on the deal until union leaders can discuss it with members.

The agreement caps a contentious two years. UPS laid off 140 mechanics in 2009 citing the economy, but the union blamed the layoffs on the outsourcing of work to China.

UPS says it uses overseas mechanics only to do routine maintenance checks when at some foreign airports. But last year an arbitrator ruled UPS violated its union contract by using outside vendors.

UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot said the company and union will disclose details of the deal once they are finalized. He called it an “industry-leading agreement … that reaffirms our mechanics’ status as the best in the industry.”

Reporter Patrick Howington can be reached at (502) 582-4229.

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