United Parcel Service today said they 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 plan to begin contract negotiations in late January, first with an exchange of written proposals and then 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."

The Teamsters said they recognize an early start to negotiations is the best way to protect UPS volume and preserve Teamsters jobs.

"We are very optimistic we can successfully negotiate a contract that rewards our employees while maintaining our flexibility to compete," Mahoney added.