United Parcel Service and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have agreed to an early start to negotiations on a new contract to replace the five-year pact that expires on July 31.

The Teamsters and UPS planned to begin contract negotiations late last month, first with an exchange of written proposals to be followed by the start of face-to-face negotiations.

Five years ago, the Teamsters and UPS did not open negotiations until March and did not move into continuous talks until May.

“We are pleased to get an early start on these contract talks,” said Chris Mahoney, UPS senior vice president for transportation. “We know our employees and customers want to see a new agreement negotiated as soon as practical We are very optimistic we can successfully negotiate a contract that rewards our employees while maintaining our flexibility to compete,” Mahoney added.

Teamsters president James P. Hoffa called an early start the best way to protect UPS volume.

“The best way for the company to insure operational success is to negotiate a full and fair agreement that rewards the workers who built UPS into one of the most profitable companies in the world,” he said.