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Pilot Protest Had Few Effects, FedEx Reports : Transportation: The company says a union work slowdown failed to disrupt deliveries.

From Bloomberg Business News

Federal Express Corp. said Monday that work delays ordered by its pilots union Saturday have had little effect on deliveries.

If true, the company’s assertion indicates that it feels it has the upper hand with a divided union and will be able to get through the critical holiday season without serious labor-caused service disruptions.

After contract negotiations between FedEx and the Air Line Pilots Assn. union broke off Saturday, the union ordered its pilots not to work overtime, a move the union said would slow deliveries on up to 300,000 packages a day.

But many pilots crossed what the union calls “the invisible picket line” by volunteering to fly overtime, allowing FedEx to meet its delivery schedule on all flights this weekend, according to Shirley Clark of FedEx.

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Although the union technically represents all of FedEx’s 2,900 pilots, analysts note that only about half are actually members, making it difficult for the union to gather support for a work slowdown, let alone a strike.

“So many of the pilots are against the union, I don’t see how it [a strike] could happen,” said Steve Lewins, an analyst at Gruntal & Co. in New York.

The union said last week that it had ruled out a strike, but union officials hinted this weekend that one was possible.

Union officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

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The company on Sunday exploited what may be a widening rift between its union and non-union pilots by implementing a 4% wage increase for all pilots, analysts said. The increase was a key part of the company’s final contract proposal rejected by the union last week.

“FedEx obviously feels it is in the driver’s seat,” said Wesley Wildman, a labor professor at the University of Chicago. “Any time a company unilaterally implements conditions, it is saying, ‘Take it or strike me if you don’t like it.’ ”

The rift was underscored when a group including non-union FedEx pilots and other FedEx employees took out a full-page newspaper advertisement in the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, announcing their opposition to the union’s demands.

FedEx shares closed down 25 cents at $77.75.

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