Wednesday, February 11, 2009

FYI, From Our Brothers And Sisters At FedEx Mechanics For Teamsters

Return of bill heightens union threat to FedEx

FedEx this week faces the return of a bill that could escalate a lobbying war with organised labour and rival United Parcel Service.

US congressmen plan to reintroduce legislation this week that would authorise funding for the country’s aviation regulator, containing a provision that targets only one company, FedEx, and its ability to keep more of its express delivery employees from organising.

If the bill succeeds, the provision would strip the company’s express delivery division of its rights to bargain under the Railway Labor Act, meaning the company could no longer block FedEx Express workers from organising at a local level.

Such a reversal would leave the business more susceptible to strikes and could drive up labour costs.

FedEx argues that local labour actions could disrupt its air and ground delivery network and, in turn, the country’s economy.

United Parcel Service, founded as a ground-based courier, has not enjoyed the same treatment as FedEx, because the original exemption covers railways and airlines. FedEx was founded as an airline.

UPS has been pushing for the exemption to be scrapped for many years.

A similar bill passed the US House in 2007 but failed to come before a vote in the Senate, leading Congress to extend the life of an existing Federal Aviation Authority Reauthorisation law, which sets policy on FAA funds and how the agency may tax air carriers for two years.

The current extension expires at the end of March.

Jim Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who chairs the House transportation and infrastructure committee, will unveil the bill before Wednesday’s scheduled hearing, a committee spokesman said.

Some analysts and investors predict that the FedEx provision stands a better chance of surviving during the current Congress, and with a Democrat in the White House.

“With the exception of the pilots’ union, FedEx has been very successful at holding off unions,” Tom Wadewitz, a JPMorgan Chase analyst, wrote in a November note to clients.

“We believe the risk of unionisation would increase significantly if FedEx Express was moved out of [the Railway Labour Act]”.

FedEx has argued that the express business fits the description of the kind of integrated transportation system Congress sought to protect from disruption, and points to a US circuit court decision that supports its case.

“It is extremely bad public policy,” Fred Smith, FedEx’s chief executive, said in December.

“FedEx Express has been a Railway Labor Act carrier since its inception. It was one of the key elements in the formation of the company.

“We would hope that that provision would not see the light of day.”

FedEx said on Monday it would cut about 900 jobs at 130 facilities, citing unprecedented economic conditions and aggressive pricing by carriers.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

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