Dec. 19, 2003 Voluntary Early Retirement Memorandums
Despite the 2002 Agreement,
USPS Imposing Limits on Early Outs
(This article was first published in the Nov./Dec. 2003 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
In a clear violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that the APWU membership ratified in December 2002, the Postal Service is attempting to impose limits on the number of employees it will release for voluntary early retirement.
According to the agreement, only restrictions imposed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) could limit the offer. In July, however, eligible employees started receiving notices from the USPS informing them that they might not be offered early retirement opportunities.
In an effort to resolve the matter quickly, the APWU invoked the Administrative Dispute Resolution Procedure and proposed expedited arbitration, but the USPS has refused. Seeking to compel arbitration, the APWU filed a complaint in federal court. As we go to press, the union is poised for a hearing set for late October.
"The actions are designed to limit our members' access to voluntary early retirements and are nothing less than treachery," said APWU President William Burrus. "It is clear the Postal Service has engaged in double-dealing to avoid living up to its commitment to offer early outs to all eligible members."
In June, the Postal Service was granted authority to make its early retirement offer. With that authority set to expire Sept. 30, the USPS in August sought an extension, but this time requested early-out authority for limited categories of employees. In response to the USPS request, OPM granted the extension - until Dec. 31, 2004 - and limited the categories of employees eligible for offers of early retirement.
"This authority," OPM's Sept. 9 letter to the Postal Service said, "applies to [USPS] employees within the following occupational series and levels: clerk craft employees; motor vehicle craft employees in levels 5 and below; and maintenance craft employees in levels 5 and below, with the exception of technical maintenance positions for which there is a continuing need."
The letter continues: "These are the same categories of employees covered by OPM authority 2003-078," referring to the approval it granted on June 13 to the Postal Service's original request.
In fact, however, the approval granted in June did not exclude any crafts, levels, occupational groups or geographic areas.
"The Postal Service - in concert with OPM - is attempting to make it appear that OPM has imposed restrictions on the early-out offer," Burrus said. "Yet it is clear that management is actually trying to limit the offer, in violation of the APWU contract."
To make matters worse, the Postal Service has given district managers the authority to determine the number of employees in specific categories who will be permitted to retire early, and in many cases these numbers are ridiculously low.