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Department & Division News

212 Violations? That's Not an 'Isolated Incident'

(This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

212. That’s how many times the USPS failed to properly notify the APWU of management decisions to renew Highway Contract Routes (HCRs) in one year.

Yet at a recent arbitration hearing, the Postal Service urged the arbitrator to deny the union’s request for a nationwide remedy for the violations, which took place across the country, from Pennsylvania to Texas and California. Instead, management argued, the arbitrator should stand by a ruling he issued in a 2004 case from St. Petersburg, FL, where he said the remedy should be decided at the local level.

The problem with management’s logic, however, is that in the St. Petersburg case, the arbitrator said the remedy should be decided at the local level because management claimed the violation was “an isolated incident.”

At a hearing in September before Arbitrator Shyam Das, the APWU presented evidence that the USPS failed on more than 200 occasions to notify the union of HCR renewals, in violation of Article 32.2.B of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The USPS informed the union of the renewals after the fact or failed to provide any notice at all.

The APWU asked Arbitrator Das to decide the appropriate remedy for this egregious violation. If the contract has any meaning at all, the union reasoned, there must be a penalty for management’s wholesale breach of its provisions.

True to form, the Postal Service responded with technical arguments and delaying tactics. First, management asserted the principle of “res judicata,” a Latin legal term that means a prior ruling is binding on the parties in any subsequent case involving the same issue. Next, the USPS asked the arbitrator to “bifurcate,” or separate, the issue of whether the case was properly before him from the substantive issue.

The union adamantly opposed the Postal Service’s request for bifurcation, as well as the claim that the St. Petersburg case settled the remedy issue.

We’ll keep you posted on the outcome.

Rulings, Arbitrations

We are pursuing several national-level MVS arbitrations in the fall, covering a wide variety of issues for various occupational groups.

DSI Qualification Standards - The union grieved changes to USPS handbooks that require applicants for Driver Safety Instructor (DSI) positions to be qualified on equipment listed on the posted duty assignment instead of all the equipment in the local post office. The hearing was held Sept. 16-17. We are awaiting a ruling.

Article 32.1.B Case - In October, hearings were held on the grievance challenging the Postal Service’s notification to the union that management is considering contracting out 162 PVS sites. The union asserted that the union and management agreed in the 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement to bring work in-house – not engage in wholesale contracting out of the Postal Vehicle Service. The USPS notice of its plan to subcontract 162 sites was dated April 26, 2013, just 52 days after Arbitrator Goldberg overturned the conversion of all of California PVS operations.

SEAM – In December we are scheduled to arbitrate the union’s challenge to management’s decision to replace the Vehicle Management Accounting System (VMAS) with Solution Enterprise Asset Management (SEAM). The USPS has touted the fact that SEAM will drastically reduce the number of General Clerks. The union believes the reduction will be achieved by shifting work to supervisors and technicians.

Arbitration Win - In a Supplemental Implementation Award dated Sept. 15, 2014, Arbitrator Das sustained the union’s claim that locals are entitled to notice of temporary and emergency contracts. The USPS said that because Article 32.2.H says notification is not required at the national level, management is not obligated to provide the information at any level.

NLRB Win - As previously reported, the APWU filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over the Postal Service’s refusal to provide the union copies of PS Form 7463-A, the negotiated cost statement between the USPS and HCR companies that are successful bidders for specific routes.

This fight began in 2013 when the APWU requested cost comparisons for eight routes where the union believed our costs were lower than the awarded contract. The USPS took the position that the information was confidential, and refused to provide the Forms 7463-A. The union filed charges protesting management’s refusal to provide the information.

In an award dated Sept. 10, 2014, the administrative judge ruled that the Postal Service must “Cease and desist from refusing to bargain with the American Postal Workers Union by failing and refusing to promptly furnish the Union with unredacted copies of the Postal Form 7463-A that the Union requested.”

The USPS has the right to appeal, so we will keep you informed of the final outcome.