The Tentative Agreement and the Clerk Craft:
Creating New Opportunities
Clerk Division Director
(This article was first published in the April-June 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Many provisions of the APWU's tentative agreement with the postal Service directly affect the Clerk Craft. Highlights of the entire agreement can be found on pages 6-9, but several Clerk Craft items deserve additional attention.
Automation and declining mail volume have had a dramatic impact on the craft, and we continue to lose jobs. Therefore, throughout negotiations, our top priority was to safeguard existing jobs and create new positions.
The Tentative Agreement returns to the APWU bargaining unit a minimum of 1,100 Call Center jobs that had been contracted out. The Call Centers will become part of the nearest installation, which will allow APWU members to bid on these positions. The number of positions could increase if the USPS can bring in Call Center work from other government agencies. Thirty percent of the Call Center jobs may be reserved for APWU-represented rehabilitation employees by seniority.
APWU President Cliff Guffey and the rest of the negotiating team also were determined to return to the Clerk Craft duties that have been gradually transferred to EAS employees. A minimum of 800 duty assignments will be created in the craft to perform administrative and technical work that is currently performed by EAS personnel.
Lead Clerk, PS-7, positions will be established in mail processing plants and customer service. A ratio of those employees was negotiated for both areas. The future of these positions is to return to craft employees work that has been performed by 204Bs. Therefore, the number of 204Bs will be reduced. They will be eliminated from offices with supervisors except to fill absences of 14 days or more and vacancies of 14 days or more, not to exceed 90 days. Employees serving as 204Bs also will be required to return to the bargaining unit for a pay period in order to bid and to avoid having their duty assignments reposted.
New Assignments and Bidding Opportunities
The union negotiated new rules that authorize management to post “nontraditional” duty assignments. The following are examples of non-traditional duty assignments that may be coming soon to a post office near you:
We also negotiated restrictions on these positions.
Percentages were set to prevent management from over-using these types of assignments. In addition, national APWU officers will review the staffing levels of all offices to address any abuses by local management.
All Part-Time Regular (PTR) assignments will be converted to fulltime assignments. In many areas where employees chose to become PTRs in lieu of being excessed, the decision was catastrophic because the employees’ schedules were reduced to just four hours per week. Under the Tentative Agreement, the minimum number of hours worked by full-time regulars will be 30 per week.
In small offices, Postmaster Reliefs will be eliminated. In addition, dual-appointment Rural Carrier Associates (RCAs) will be wiped out, and Postal Operations Administrators (POAs) will be a thing of the past. This should bring more hours and more work for our members. The Tentative Agreement also restricts the amount of bargaining unit work that postmasters can perform in small offices, and PTFs have been eliminated in Level 21 offices and above.
Employees will be allowed unlimited bidding on jobs that do not require off-site training or a deferment period.
Regardless of our efforts to limit excessing, we cannot protect workers from all reassignments to other installations. We tried to lessen the impact of excessing by agreeing that affected clerks may elect to transfer within 100 miles or fill residual vacancies without the loss of seniority. Allowing this voluntary action will help to reduce the number of forced relocations.
For years, the Clerk Craft has attempted to eliminate “bid blocking.” Under the new provisions, if a senior bidder withdraws or fails to fill a vacancy, the opportunity will be passed to the next senior bidder. This process continues until the position is filled.
Relief and pool assignment employees can now cover vacancies, provided notice of the employee’s schedule change is given by the Wednesday preceding the service week that the position is set to start. Relief employees can also be used to cover vacancies in other installations. This provision is primarily designed in the event the work is returned to the Clerk Craft in smaller installations.
The Tentative Agreement also creates a new type of position, the “Delivery/ Sales Services and Distribution Associate.” Employees in these assignments could be used in small offices to work the window, sort mail, and deliver to non-prescribed routes. We have been working to create this position for a long time in order to prevent non-bargaining unit employees from doing these duties, which our members are capable of.
We also agreed to discuss with the Postal Service changes to Article 37 that would require all future excessing in the Clerk Craft to be done by seniority, regardless of level. When the old excessing rules were written, we didn’t contemplate the changes we currently face, so this is an effort to “right a wrong.”
While these are some of the main provisions that will impact Clerk Craft employees, there are other important issues included in the agreement. All members are encouraged to study the Tentative Agreement, which can be found at www.apwu.org.
As Clerk Craft director, I want to thank all of the Assistant Directors — Pat Williams, Lyle Krueth, and Lamont Brooks — for their hard work. I want to also thank our many National Business Agents who contributed to the process. I’m proud of the efforts of Clerk Craft officers and of the union’s full negotiating team.
During negotiations, the APWU didn’t just think outside of the box — we broke down the sides of the box to reach an agreement that benefits both parties.