ATLANTA (AP) - United Parcel Service is still struggling to regain its business three weeks after a strike crippled the shipping giant. But the company said so many part-timers found other jobs that it won't follow through on a layoff threat and has actually begun hiring nationwide.
The Atlanta-based company estimated that its business has fallen off by up to 6 percent, thanks mostly to midsize businesses that took their packages elsewhere during the 15-day strike by the Teamsters union.
But UPS won't be laying off the 13,000 to 17,000 workers such a decline normally would require because 15,000 part-time workers didn't return after the strike and because businesses have begun to boost shipments for the holidays.
"This isn't like a single-quarter phenomenon. We have lost business," UPS spokesman Norman Black said Tuesday.
UPS' pickups have averaged between 11.8 million and 12 million a day. That's down from the 12.5 to 12.7 million packages a day last September, Black said.
"The one thing the strike did was undermine the confidence these businesses had," he said. "They are back to shipping a lot of volume. But at the same time they are saying, `I can't take a chance. I need to diversify my shipping."'
Adding to the company's post-strike adjustment problems are reports of turmoil between Teamsters employees and management at its distribution centers in Chicago and Ontario, Calif.
Jerald Zero, spokesman for Local 705 in Chicago, said UPS was refusing to deduct more than $350,000 in local union dues until a contract was signed.
UPS spokesman Bob Godlewski said that without a valid contract, the company did not have the authority to deduct union dues from employee pay checks.
"It seems to be much ado about nothing," said Godlewski, who suggested the issue might be resolved by signing an extension agreement to bridge the gap between the old and new contracts.
In Ontario, union officials have filed complaints of mistreatment and harassment by management in the wake of the strike.
"We've had serious problems in many locations, not just those two," said Rand Wilson, a spokesman for Teamsters International in Washington.
Wilson said hundreds of employees have reported being harassed and excessively disciplined for minor infractions because they honored the picket line.
"I don't know what they are talking about," Black said, adding that UPS' labor relations board is reviewing the conduct of 40 to 50 employees for allegedly violent behavior during the strike.
"These are instances were people were assaulted, shot at or stabbed with an ice pick," he said.
Upheaval at UPS is the last thing its customers want to hear about.
"I figure we've just survived the worst disaster UPS has ever been through. So we can probably get through the rest of this if we have to," said Jack Carlin, spokesman for United Design, a Noble, Okla.-based manufacturer of ceramic figurines.
But the company has asked for bids from FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service, he said.
Retail giants Lands End and J.C. Penney, which has a 5-year, $1 million contract with UPS, now offer their customers a choice of shippers. But both said that, in spite of the problems, UPS was the preferred choice because of its delivery span and cost.
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