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UPS Employees Return to Positions, Losses May Result in 15,000 Layoffs

By Beth Berselli and Peter Behr
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Bob Beach's normal routine was a little off Wednesday.

First the United Parcel Service driver showed up for work an hour early at the UPS warehouse in Landover, Md. Then he loaded his own truck, as the workers who usually do that weren't back on the job yet. Then the 17-year UPS veteran spent the day driving around unfamiliar Washington streets and delivering packages to unfamiliar customers, finally dragging himself home two hours after his usual quitting time.

"It's been pretty hectic," Beach admitted as raindrops pelted him and his packages.

Still, Beach was glad to join tens of thousands of other UPS drivers around the country who hit the road again on the first workday after a painful two-week Teamsters strike against the company.

In a status report to customers over its World Wide Web site and a toll-free phone line, UPS said it was resuming regularly scheduled service Wednesday everywhere in the nation except for Chicago and parts of northern Indiana, where two Teamsters locals with separate UPS contracts remain on strike.

UPS began taking new requests Thursday for pickup Friday. UPS urged customers to use its phone or Internet services to track the delivery status of packages.

It will take until Monday to get operations back up to speed, UPS's chairman and chief executive, James Kelly, said on NBC-TV Thursday. Though the strike cost the company $650 million, he said customers will not see higher prices any time soon.

Neither the company nor the union would estimate how many of the 185,000 UPS Teamsters were working Thursday, saying that would vary greatly by region, depending on how many pre-strike packages remain in the system.

Beach said only seven of the approximately 50 drivers at his center were called back to work Thursday, with senior drivers getting preference.

Adam Feit, a part-time loader at the Gaithersburg, Md., facility, said he came home Tuesday night to find a distraught wife and an answering machine message from UPS telling him he had been laid off. The company manager said he would be back in touch "when work dictates."

Feit said he was "a little bit upset" and expects to return to work later this week once the package volume picks up. But UPS officials Thursday repeated a warning that up to 15,000 workers could be laid off if the company doesn't recover the 5 percent of its business lost during the strike.

"In some places we'll need half the normal work force (this week). At other places we'll be on overtime," said UPS spokesman Ken Sternad.

A backlog of 15 million packages that filled UPS warehouses has been cleared out in most parts of the country, Sternad added.