The Teamsters Union said on Wednesday United Parcel Service “walked away” from negotiations over a new contract, a claim the shipping giant denied, lobbing its own accusation that the union had stopped negotiating.
The two sides traded salvos in early morning statements as they attempt to come to an agreement to prevent a strike when the current contract, which covers some 340,000 workers, expires at the end of the month.
UPS workers have already authorized a strike should the talks break down. Such a labor action would be the first since 1997 for UPS workers, in a strike that lasted 15 days.
Both the union and company officials have said before that they wanted a deal finalized to prevent a strike, which could put millions of daily deliveries at risk.
“The Teamsters have stopped negotiating despite UPS’s historic offer that builds on our industry-leading pay,” the company said, adding that the union should return to negotiations.
The union had earlier in the day said UPS made an offer that was unanimously rejected and that the company had “walked away from the bargaining table.”
“UPS had a choice to make, and they have clearly chosen to go down the wrong road,” said Sean O’Brien, general president at the Teamsters, which represents roughly 340,000 full- and part-time U.S. drivers, package handlers and loaders at the company.
The 1997 national strike disrupted the supply of goods, cost the company $850 million and sent some customers to rivals.
UPS sweetened its offer last week, but O’Brien said it did not go far enough to reward workers who risked their lives to keep packages moving during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic that fueled big profits for UPS.
Labor unions of late have been motivated by stronger bargaining power with companies grappling with labor shortages since the pandemic.
“Refusing to negotiate, especially when the finish line is in sight, creates significant unease among employees and customers and threatens to disrupt the U.S. economy,” UPS said on Wednesday.
Shares of UPS were down 2.6% before the bell in light volumes.