12 Responds: UPS workers claim Warwick hub stopped following COVID-19 safety protocols

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — About a thousand members of the local UPS union plan to rally Thursday morning outside the company’s hub in Warwick to raise concerns about the working conditions, according to a spokesperson for the union.

Teamsters Local 251 business agent Matthew Maini claims the hub, which employs more than 1,800 workers, is no longer following COVID-19 safety protocols.

“They have to provide hand sanitizer. They have to clean the bathrooms. They’re supposed to disinfect common areas, and it’s just not happening,” Maini explained. “We feel that UPS should do the right thing and keep their employees safe.”

Maini tells 12 News the company also stopped cleaning vehicles and offering face masks about a month ago.

In a statement, UPS spokesperson Matthew O’Connor pushed back against Maini’s claims, saying the health and wellness of their employees is especially important to the company and that “UPS continues to provide our employees with PPE, clean and disinfect our facilities and vehicles, and follow the CDC guidelines.”

O’Connor also provided a list of additional safety measures to protect UPS employees:

  • Communication: 
    • We continue to communicate often and regularly with our employees about the recommended behaviors to manage health risks.
  • Hygiene protocols and social distancing: 
    • We are continuously sharing the hygiene protocols suggested by the CDC and WHO with all employees.
    • The company has modified, and will continue to modify, our normal operating procedures to maintain social distance protocols. For example, we have added space between work stations inside our facilities and suspended requiring customers to sign for “signature required” packages.
    • We have also modified other protocols involving site access, gatherings of employees, and public interaction at service counters.
  • Signs of illness: 
    • If any employee experiences symptoms such as fever or respiratory infection, they are required to seek medical treatment. We do not want them to come to work if they are sick.
    • UPS will provide up to 10 days of compensation for any employee who is diagnosed with the virus, or who is required to quarantine, or if a household member is diagnosed with the virus and the employee is required to quarantine.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting our facilities and equipment:  
    • We have substantially increased cleaning and disinfecting surfaces throughout our facilities.
    • Our vehicles and equipment are cleaned and disinfected daily with an emphasis on the interiors and frequent exterior touch points, and we are providing our employees with supplies so they can wipe down their work surfaces and vehicles throughout the day.  
  • PPE materials: 
    • We have distributed protective equipment to employees and we are regularly replenishing supplies at our facilities. This includes hand soap, hand sanitizer, wipes, and other bleach disinfecting solutions in place.
    • UPS requires that our employees wear masks or face coverings in our operations and when interacting with the public. We are making masks and disposable gloves available to our employees with the guidelines to properly use them. We follow all government directives that require the use of masks or face coverings.

Maini also claimed the company is preventing its employees from taking time to get vaccinated.

“They’ve threatened discipline for people booking vaccination appointments,” he said.

But, according to O’Connor, that’s untrue. In a statement, he said UPS employees “receive attractive compensation packages that include paid time off, medical benefits that include vaccinations.”

Maini said the union has filed a complaint with the R.I. Department of Business Regulation (DBR). A spokesperson there said the facility had seven inspections and no violations were issued.

The union also filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to Maini.

An OSHA spokesperson told 12 News the investigation is active and that the agency has “contacted the company, obtaining information on what steps the company is taking to address the complaint issues.”

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