On Thursday, Sept. 12, a group of three office clerical workers at DHL Express in Hanover, Md. went on strike against the U.S. subsidiary of Germany based global delivery giant DP DHL. The dispute involves the company’s different treatment of the clerical workers compared to their delivery driver co-workers.
At the Hanover location, DHL Express drivers are covered by a national master collective bargaining agreement. The clerical employees, however, traditionally were not covered by any contract and received inferior health and retirement benefits. Late last year the clerical employees voted to join Teamsters Local Union No. 355 in an effort to address the disparity.
“This is really about treating us fairly – we have less retirement security and greater health cost risk than our fellow co-workers,” said James Gekas, a five-year clerical worker.
“We are in solidarity with the DHL workers in Baltimore and support their demands for fair health care benefits. Strong unions like the Teamsters are the foundation of secure jobs and good working conditions,” said Cornelia Broos, Head of UNI Post and Logistics. “We encourage DHL workers around the world to establish union structures and join unions to fight collectively for their rights. UNI Global Union is supporting the colleagues from the Teamsters and will continue to do so until they win.”
In bargaining, however, the company has taken a hardline approach and has refused to agree to allow the clerical employees to have the same health care and retirement programs as the couriers they work with every day. Rather, the company is insisting that the clerical employees continue to participate in a company-controlled health plan that has extremely high out–of-pocket costs and significantly inferior coverage. Likewise, the company refuses to agree to permit the clerical employees to participate in the same retirement plan as the drivers represented by Teamsters Local 355.
Thousands of DHL couriers and office clericals are covered under the National Master DHL Agreement. In a show of solidarity, the Local 355 couriers working out of the Hanover facility have been honoring the clerical employees’ strike line by exercising their rights under the National Master Agreement not to cross or work behind a sanctioned picket line. Early in the morning Monday, Sept. 16, Local 355 extended the clerical employees’ picket line to the company’s facility in Philadelphia, Pa.
DHL workers in Philadelphia, represented by Teamster Local Unions 107 and 500 who are covered by the National Master Agreement also exercised their contractual rights and declined to cross Local 355’s picket line.
“We are at a loss to understand why DHL is taking such an aggressive, mean-spirited approach to these three clerical workers when Teamster Locals represent numerous DHL clerical workers in many facilities across the county,” said Bill Hamilton, chair of the Teamsters National DHL Negotiating Committee.
Rather than recognizing the value that these workers bring to the company and do the right thing, DHL is choosing to bully these workers and has even threatened them with permanent replacement. “We’ve made it clear to the company that Local 355’s picket line is ‘sanctioned’ which would allow hundreds of DHL couriers covered by the National Master Agreement to honor a picket line set up by Local 355 at any of DHL’s facilities across the country. We would hope, however, that DHL would reconsider its course of action and be smarter than to continue this. It certainly doesn’t make any business sense for the company to pick this fight when they could easily resolve these disparities,” added Hamilton.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information.