Air supply chain faces strike woes as FedEx pilots ballot on potential walkout

Tue 18 Apr 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

FedEx airline in airport with cargo being loaded

International transport giant FedEx faces industrial action, as its unionised pilots open voting today (18 April) on whether to strike in long-running negotiations over a new contract.

The Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), which represents 6,000 of FedEx’s pilots, said that the ballot has opened.

The dispute has been long running, notes Bloomberg, with contract negotiations between ALPA and FedEX going on since May 2021.

Captain Chris Norman, chair of the FedEx ALPA Master Executive Council, said: “We do not make a decision like this lightly, but we intend to send a strong and unified message to management that our pilots are willing to go the distance to achieve the contract we have earned.”

The ballot comes after FedEx launched a massive restructuring that could see a radical overhaul of air and land-based supply chains, as reported previously by the IOE&IT Daily Update.

Several observers noted that any strike action could complicate an already complex restructuring process.

No immediate strike

Under US federal labour law, ALPA cannot unilaterally declare a strike and instead must go through a multi-step process.

According to Air Cargo News, if mediation efforts are deemed to not be productive, then both parties can go to arbitration to resolve their dispute.

If this fails, then a 30-day “cooling off” period would apply before any walk outs by pilots or lockouts by management.

There is also the possibility the either US president Joe Biden or Congress could get involved, as both have the legal ability to intervene during this 30-day period. Last year, Biden passed a bill to avert a nationwide strike by railroad workers a few days before it was due to begin.

UPS joins in

Loadstar reports that a major rival of FedEx also faces a strike threat, as negotiations open between UPS and International Brotherhood of Teamsters union.

The union is seeking improved pay and working conditions and sits on a sizeable strike fund, while UPS aims to maintain its market position as it fights off threats from non-unionised competition, including Amazon.

Satish Jindel, a consultant for the parcel industry, told FreightWaves that he expects a deal to be agreed by 30 June, matching comments made by UPS leadership.

The teamsters union maintain a $300m strike fund, according to Reuters, and are prepared to walk out if a contract is not agreed.

The last national UPS strike occurred in 1997, lasting 15 days and reportedly inflicting losses of $600m on the company.