TL;DR – Do not panic. UPS strike won’t happen so soon…
Tis the season to be jolly!
Indeed, Christmas is just around the corner. It’s that time of the year where many Singaporeans, even those who aren’t Christians, exchange presents. Some of us may even get our presents from overseas. If you ordered things online from USA, you might be concerned with the news that UPS workers in USA are going on strike.
About 80% of workers who are responsible for servicing UPS’s fleet of planes took part in the vote, and of those, 98% voted to authorize a strike. The workers felt the need to strike because UPS is proposing a reduction in health benefits for the maintenance workers and retirees.
We’ve read here that UPS has been doing well financially, revenue and profits are up. Its stock was also upgraded by many analysts, and in September, UPS announced additional stock incentives and 10 percent raises for its top executives.
Yet UPS announced “massive reductions” in health benefits for their 1,200 maintenance workers, and reduction in benefits for retirees who spent their lives servicing the company’s planes. According to their union, Teamsters Local 2727, many UPS gateways operate with just one aircraft mechanic per shift, meaning he or she works alone around massive aircraft parts and equipment, sometimes for up to 39 hours straight.
Workers commonly experience lifting injuries and accidents, repetitive stress injuries, hearing loss, inhaling toxic exhaust, and jet engine blasts as work hazards.”
WHOA. That doesn’t sound too nice. We hope UPS realises that its success could not have happened if without the effort of its employees working on the ground.
And yes, if the strike does happen, it could paralyse UPS’s global shipping operations. That means that you may not get your online orders from USA.
Oh no! Does that mean that we won’t get our online orders from USA? What would happen to Christmas?
Do not panic. Take a deep breath. Even if the strike happens, it is highly unlikely that it would happen any time soon. Why? Because the union that represents the workers need to get approval from the government before they can strike. According to RT.com:
“First, under the Railway Labor Act, before going on a strike, unions must obtain an approval of a federal mediator. With the presidential transition just about to go into full swing, it is likely that the Teamsters will have to deal with President-elect Donald Trump, but not sooner than his inauguration on January 20. The president may have to appoint an emergency board that will decide on whether to grant that permission. The process also includes several 30-day cooling off periods.”
So you can see, it is highly unlikely that UPS workers would be able to strike before Christmas. You can breath easier now. Your online orders won’t be disrupted by any industrial actions.
This is may be a trivial example, but it shows that unions in certain sectors should have some restrictions from going on strike.
So what about here in Singapore?
In Singapore, under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act:
- Employees employed in water, gas, and electrical services who go on strike are guilty of an offence.
- Employees employed in other essential services may go on strike, but they are guilty of an offence if notice of intention to strike is not given to their employers, at least 14 days before the strike.
That’s why the strike in 2012 by the 171 bus drivers from public-transport service provider SMRT was illegal. That was the Singapore’s first strike since the Hydril strike in 1986. It was estimated that about 10% of SMRT bus services were affected on the two days of strike. For their key role in the illegal strike, five drivers were sentenced to jail terms between six and seven weeks.
Let’s hope that workers in Singapore don’t ever have to resort to striking again. By the time things get to the point where a strike is needed, it means that the situation would have gotten pretty bad.
As our economy slows down, it’ll be a challenge for employers and employees to maintain cordial relationship. But I think it can be done. And we will come out of the economic headwinds even stronger.