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UPS pilots say negotiations are in "crunch time"

Pilots at Sandy Springs-based UPS say their negotiations for a new contract are "nearing a critical juncture."

The union is opening a strike center at its Louisville headquarters to use in the event of a strike -- though that does not mean a strike is planned.

Under the National Mediation Board, which governs airline labor relations, there are a number of hurdles before workers can strike.

The NMB can determine when negotiations have reached an impasse, which would trigger the authority to release parties from mediation. Then there would be a 30-day cooling-off period before a strike or a lockout.

UPS said it has been negotiating in good faith and that negotiations continue to progress. It also said there are a series of fail-safes, including presidential and congressional intervention, to prevent disruption of operations.

The Independent Pilots Association, which represents UPS pilots, has been in bargaining with the company for nearly five years, including two years of federal mediation. The union said it presented its closing positions earlier this month, and UPS is scheduled to do so later this month.

The union said it "believes we are nearing the point" where an impasse is possible. It said the strike center is a "strategic tool" to track flights, picket and communicate.

The company said tactics such as strike centers are "a routine occurrence in negotiations in the airline industry."

"UPS is confident the negotiations process will be completed without any disruption to its customers," the company added.

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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.