WASHINGTON - Renewed talks that government officials had hoped would bring an end closer in the UPS strike appeared to lose some momentum Friday. On Day 12, Teamsters leaders urged union members to dig in.
The company had appeared in public statements to be more flexible than before, and the union had said there was room for movement.
But Teamsters President Ron Carey said Friday the two sides were no closer than when they began talking Thursday morning, even though there had been more face-to-face meetings than in the past.
"I think the company is in the room more, as well as the union," Mr. Carey said. "But it has not brought about any solution. There are no agreements that have been reached."
Nevertheless, government officials who brought the two parties back to the table continued to suggest real bargaining was going on to settle the strike that has disrupted package deliveries nationwide.
"It's very clear they are redoubling their efforts," said Susan King, special assistant to Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. "They are really talking. They are very serious."
The talks were guided by federal mediator John Calhoun Wells, but Ms. Herman played an active role, meeting with Mr. Carey until about 2 a.m. Friday and reviewing figures generated by her chief economist.
The union issued a pessimistic bulletin to its local leaders, urging them to gear up for strike actions over the weekend and into next week.
"The way to win this fight for our UPS members and all American workers is to pursue a two-track strategy," the Teamsters bulletin said. It urged strikers to "continue to build strength on the picket lines and in the community" while their leaders continued to talk with the company.
Working with a variety of community groups and AFL-CIO bodies, the union planned to operate food banks and stage rallies around the country.
Mr. Carey also said European unions that represent UPS workers abroad were meeting in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss increasing their support for their American counterparts.
The current round of mediation is the longest since 185,000 Teamsters struck the package delivery giant. When they recessed about 1:30 a.m. EDT Friday, officials said both sides were "crunching numbers," indicating that some new proposals had arisen.
But Ken Paff, leader of a 10,000-member union caucus called Teamsters for a Democratic Union, cautioned against heightened expectations.
"Ron Carey said the strike will be won on the picket lines and in the communities and not at the negotiating table in Washington. I think that's more true than ever," Mr. Paff said.
He said he had been told by union leaders to forge ahead with plans for a nationwide series of rallies on Thursday.
In other developments:
- New Jersey State Department of Labor officials said they turned down a request from UPS for help in finding replacements for striking Teamsters.
- More than 800 units of blood and blood components have spoiled and been destroyed because of delays in shipments since the strike began, according to America's Blood Centers, which called on the leaders of the company and the union to donate blood.
UPS, which normally ships 12 million items daily, has been virtually shut down since the Teamsters went on strike Aug. 4. The two sides failed to reach agreement on a new contract to replace one that expired July 30.
The strike was costing the company $200 million to $300 million a week in business, and the union as of Thursday owed pickets an estimated $10 million in strike benefits. Other unions have promised to help the strikers.
The latest talks were called at Ms. Herman's urging, and she remained at the hotel where they were held, occasionally coming down to talk with the parties.
The Clinton administration has urged both parties to settle their differences but has insisted it would not be appropriate to end the strike through direct government intervention.
With significant differences over pensions and part-time workers dividing the union and the company, it was hoped that the off-the-record discussions with a mediator would lead to common ground.
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