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DHL Express U.S. air hub workers strike during holiday rush

Employees carry DHL delivery package inside the new DHL Express hub near Paris

By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) - More than 1,100 newly organized DHL Express workers at the delivery company's main U.S. air hub went on strike on Thursday to protest unfair labor practices and stalled contract talks.

The strike threatens to delay packages during the critical peak holiday shipping season when package carriers like DHL, FedEx and United Parcel Service see volumes spike.

It also comes as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters intensify organizing activity in the wake of this summer's closely watched contract deal at UPS, the world's biggest delivery firm.

The workers, who load and unload DHL Express airplanes at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), voted to organize with the Teamsters in April. They have been negotiating their first contract with DHL since July.

"DHL Express was fully prepared for this anticipated tactic and has enacted contingency plans" to ensure that service is not disrupted, the company said in a statement. Those plans include using replacement staff at the hub and moving flights and volume away from CVG to other DHL locations throughout the Americas region.

The company, a division of Germany's Deutsche Post AG, said it expects the strike to garner "sympathy support" at various pickup and delivery locations across the U.S. and that it is prepared to deploy replacement staff.

The union said it has filed numerous unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board during and since the organizing campaign, including for retaliation against pro-union workers. It also said the NLRB is prosecuting the company civilly.

"This company's repeated acts of disrespect — from the tarmac where we work to the bargaining table — leave me and my co-workers with no choice but to withhold our labor," said Gina Kemp, a striking ramp and tug worker.

DHL Express said the Teamsters are using the strike to pressure the company to agree to "unreasonable" contract terms.

"While there is no agreed deadline for these contract negotiations, we are committed to working in good faith at the December negotiating sessions and have offered further negotiating dates in January to conclude this matter," DHL Express said.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Stephen Coates)