Getting "excessed" is probably one of the most unpleasant experiences postal workers endure at work. It means losing your bid and being reassigned to a new position, tour, craft or installation. It can force you to rearrange your home life as well as your work life.
However, Article 12 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which governs reassignments, safeguards both full-time and part-time employees who have lost their positions as a result of downsizing.
In the 1980s, when automated equipment was introduced, management concluded that many employees would be excess to the needs of their section, craft, or installation. Since that time we have seen one generation of automated equipment after another reduce the number of employees needed to process every product in our industry. We have seen the USPS introduce a series of programs meant to reduce labor costs. Currently we are confronting Function 4 reviews, Area Mail Processing consolidations, Delivery Unit Optimization (DUO), and the POStPLAN.
In accordance with Article 12, the Postal Service is required to withhold “residual vacancies” (jobs that remain vacant after they have been posted for bid) when excessing is anticipated. Rather than convert part-time flexibles to full time or convert Postal Support Employees to career status and assign them to these positions, the USPS is required to accommodate career employees who may be reassigned because their duty assignments were abolished.
What the Union Does
Whenever management anticipates excessing from an installation will take place, USPS Area management provides the APWU's Regional Coordinator with notification of the office that is impacted and the number of employees affected, along with an Impact Statement. Each time the Northeast Region Coordinator’s office receives an Impact Statement, the appropriate National Business Agent and I meet with the local union leaders and management officials to discuss the contractual requirements involved and to get input from the local union officers. Our goal in these meetings is to reduce or eliminate the need for excessing.
As a result of these meetings, we have been very successful in reducing the number of employees excessed outside of their installation, and in some occasions we have eliminated the excessing completely.
Every excessing event is discussed and a meeting is held whether the impact is on hundreds of employees or a single employee.
Comparative Work-Hour Report
Article 12 states that when employees are excessed out of their craft or installation, Area management will provide the APWU Regional Coordinator a Comparative Work-Hour Report (CWHR) for the losing installation 45 days after the excessing.
The CWHR can play a significant role in challenging excessing. If the report fails to substantiate that business conditions warranted the action, Article 12 requires that the retreat rights of the employees shall be activated, and the employees will be returned to their former installation.
A long-standing agreement in the Northeast Region requires that a meeting take place after the union receives the CWHR to discuss whether the report justifies the excessing. The agreement goes on to state that if we cannot resolve our differences on whether the employee returns to their former installation, the matter will be placed at the top of the arbitration docket, thereby skipping Steps 1 and 2 of the grievance process. The Northeast Region has been successful in having employees returned to their original office utilizing both the Regional/Area meeting as well as arbitration.
Pros and Cons
Although staffing has been reduced at virtually all facilities due to reduced revenue, lower mail volume and automation, we have done well in regard to keeping employee dislocation to a minimum.
During management's aggressive downsizing and excessing over the past decade, millions of work hours have been cut and over postal jobs 150,000 have been eliminated. Excessing outside the craft and installation are a reality; however, the majority of the job loss has been realized through attrition rather than relocation.
I realize that these factors have severely limited the conversion of part-time flexibles to full time in Level-21-and-below offices. But conversely, I recognize that the contractual provisions that made all part-time flexible employees in Level-21-and–above offices full-time have saved the part-time flexibles in those offices from having their work hours severely reduced.
Not a Single Layoff
It is also extremely important to note that despite management's aggressive approach to excessing and downsizing, not a single APWU member has been laid off. We are part of perhaps the only industry in the country that can make such a claim: We have protected our members against layoffs.