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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Layoffs at UPS’ Centennial Ground Hub in Louisville will start in February, the company announced Thursday, just weeks after the Teamsters union threatened to strike over layoffs.

But UPS said the layoffs are not related to unionization efforts.

The Centennial is a hub for ground packages near UPS’ Worldport global air hub at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

“As a result of fewer packages in our network, we are reducing package sorting operations at the Louisville Centennial ground hub,” the company said in a statement.

The “Day sort” at the hub will close Feb. 16, but the “Twilight sort” at the hub will not be impacted.

“In our industry, packages equal jobs, and we need to match capacity and the number of jobs with current package volume,” a UPS spokesperson said. “Our employees are extremely important to us, and we understand the impact this may have on their families. We are working to minimize the impact to our people wherever we can.”

UPS declined to disclose how many workers are being laid off, but said some employees will be able to move to other positions. Affected employees include some part-time sorters, some administrative employees, and management. Drivers are not affected.

Adi Karamcheti, who is a consultant for Shipware, a company that helps shippers deal with carriers, said the layoffs in a variety of positions point to something bigger.

“They (UPS) are looking more broadly at who’s doing what at different roles, is an indicator that there is a broader event occurring here,” Karamcheti said.

He said UPS’ new contract with the Teamsters union could weigh in on the decision to lay off employees. This summer, Teamsters and UPS negotiated a 5-year labor contract with substantial raises and other benefits.

“The union is working hard to make sure they protect their workforce, but this might be one of those things where the union may be paying a little bit for some of the concessions they got,” Karamcheti said. 

Earlier this month, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union threatened to strike when 35 “specialists” and “admins” were let go at the hub after they voted in October to join the Teamsters Local 89 union. The company then backtracked, and gave those employees their jobs back with full backpay.

UPS said this round of layoffs is “operational,” and not because of any unionization efforts. When asked if there would be future layoffs, UPS said “we regularly evaluate our workforce needs but we do not speculate about the future.” The company said it has closed sorts at some other facilities across the nation as it adjusts to “changing customer demand.”

Since threatening a nationwide strike and winning significant raises in contract talks last summer, the Teamsters have been focused on organizing the remaining non-union employees at UPS’ vast Louisville operations, including at Worldport.

According to the Teamsters, UPS disagreed about whether the specialists and admins who voted to join Teamsters Local 89 in October were eligible for collective bargaining, but an independent arbitrator sided with the workers.

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