The holiday season is always a busier time for UPS, but this year, drivers are standing up against even longer workweeks.
Union UPS drivers gathered Monday morning for parking lot meetings at Boston and other New England UPS locations as part of a demonstration to oppose 70-hour workweeks during the holidays.
Sean O’Brien, president of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston and the principal executive officer of Teamsters Joint Council 10 New England, said that the meetings were organized “to inform [our members] that the company has taken a position where it wants to require them to work 70 hours per week, as opposed to the 60 hours per week we currently enjoyed."
The added hours, O’Brien said, pose a safety risk not only to the drivers delivering packages, but also to the public.
“Our members that deliver packages, whether commercial or residential, they handle every single package in those trucks. … The more hours they work, the more potential for them to get hurt at work,” he said. “More importantly, some folks out there are driving close to 70 hours and it’s a public safety issue because of accidents and fatigue that can set in.”
UPS informed employees on Friday in the Boston area that they could be scheduled to work up to 70 hours in an eight-day period through Jan. 5, 2018.
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Under federal Department of Transportation regulations, drivers are limited to 60 hours worked in a seven day period or 70 hours worked in an eight-day period. O’Brien said that the latter usually pertains to tractor-trailer drivers, which he said have a less physically-demanding job than those delivering packages door-to-door.
The actual amount of hours UPS workers will drive depends on the delivery demand, the company said.
“We recognize that UPS has an obligation to the general public as far as e-commerce and delivering packages is concerned,” O’Brien said. “The difference is that UPS has the ability to hire as many people as they need without protest from the union to ensure that these packages get delivered”
“UPS has obviously taken the position that they want to do more with less and put this burden of poor planning on the backs of our members,” he added.
This year, UPS expects to deliver 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and Dec. 31, a 5 percent increase from that time period last year. UPS hires an additional 95,000 people to work their facilities and as drivers to help during the holiday season.
O’Brien said he ensures the safety of the union UPS drivers and that members will know by the end of this week if the 70-hour schedule will be forced or voluntary.
In a statement, UPS said that the company “appreciates the exceptional effort of all employees during our peak holiday shipping season, when daily delivery volumes are near double the normal level.”
“Our employees’ scheduled work week is in compliance with Department of Transportation requirements, the statement continued. “Union-represented employees are paid time and one-half for work above 40 hours per week and they receive the industry’s most attractive compensation and benefits program.”