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Union says it has seen increase in COVID-19 among UPS pilots

By Kelly Yamanouchi, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

(CNT) City News Talk #atlanta-ga

UPS defends practices as labor leaders call for more testing, contact tracing

The pilots union at UPS said it has seen an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases among the package delivery company’s pilots and called for more testing and contact tracing for crews.

The Independent Pilots Association, which represents the 3,000 pilots at Sandy Springs-based UPS, said there have been more than 100 cases within the UPS pilot group, with 30 to 70 pilots in quarantine at any given time.

In a letter to UPS CEO Carol Tomé, the union’s president, Robert Travis, wrote that “the UPS pilot group is experiencing a significant increase in the number of pilots testing positive for the virus.”

“The widespread perception among UPS pilots is that the Company’s contact tracing efforts are flawed, inconsistent, and more geared to keeping flights moving rather than basing quarantine decisions on objective medical standards,” Travis added.

UPS Airlines spokesman Mike Mangeot said the union’s claims are “baseless” and that the company has “gone to tremendous lengths to keep our pilots safe during the coronavirus pandemic.”

He said UPS has provided face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and thermometers to crews, allows pilots to request alternate flight schedules and provided them with free rapid COVID-19 testing.

Travis called for UPS to offer more testing for pilots going to work and on their way home from flight assignments, noting that social distancing is “virtually impossible” in the cockpit.

The union called for more support for pilots who are hospitalized in other countries. It alleged in the letter that a pilot who tested positive and is asymptomatic is “now hospitalized in Hong Kong against his will” and wants to return to the U.S., which could require chartering a medical evacuation flight.

UPS said it has “worked with government entities to ensure our crews’ safe and healthy transit through nations around the world.”