Officials Fighting UPS Furloughs

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A plan by rapid package shipper UPS to furlough Anchorage based pilots is meeting resistance with the help of Alaska’s elected officials.

Earlier this year, UPS announced plans to furlough some 300 pilots nationally, citing a company-wide cost cutting regime. Almost all the pilots affected, 262 of them, were based out of the company’s Anchorage hub, because the furloughs affect the pilots with the least seniority, and the recently established Anchorage hub has the greatest number of junior pilots. Pilots are fighting the move. Bob Thrush, president of the Independent Pilots’ Association says UPS has gone back on its word

Alaska Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski have put pressure on UPS to reconsider, and Alaska governor Sean Parnell and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan have contacted UPS officials on the issue. So far, about 109 UPS pilots from Anchorage have already lost their jobs.

The remaining pilots are slated to lose their jobs by the end of next March. Thrush says the furloughs were not necessary, because the pilots initially volunteered shift and vacation pay cuts to head off the furloughs

Many of the affected pilots have homes in Anchorage. IPA spokesman Brian Godet says if the UPS plan goes through, the pilots could be furloughed through 2014, and that could mean lost revenues of up to $61 million for the city and the state. But UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot, speaking from Louisville, Kentucky, says there are some changes coming

Thrush says if UPS decides to rehire any pilots, regulations demand that the furloughed pilots be offered their jobs back first.

Mangeot says UPS’s second quarter earnings indicate a 40 percent increase in Asian exports, and that growth could extend to Alaska

The state house transportation committee is getting involved in the issue. A hearing on the UPS layoffs is scheduled for Tuesday morning at 9:00 in Anchorage to question UPS officials about the plan. UPS has 1,000 employees in Alaska and spends $328 million a year to run its operations in the state.

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