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Department & Division News

APWU Payroll Experts Issue a Warning

When management declared an Information Technology (IT) emergency due to a breach of USPS data systems recently, more than 150 systems that USPS programmers develop and administer were taken offline so they could be patched and reconfigured. The programmers – who are APWU members – were on call all hours of the day and night to get the systems tested and running.

These union members performed selflessly throughout the emergency.

IT/AS employees also perform an invaluable function for their APWU brothers and sisters day-in and day-out: They are responsible for every USPS employee’s pay and for making payroll corrections when errors occur.

Numerous factors come into play to ensure that an employee’s pay is accurate. Fortunately, our Payroll Technicians and Payroll Specialists are experts on the topic and can identify problems and recommend fixes.

These payroll experts say there are several problems that management seems unwilling to correct.

Big Concern:  When PSEs Are Converted

A big concern centers on the conversion of Postal Support Employees (PSEs) to full-time positions and the timeliness of their Form 50s. (Forms 50 authorize changes in an employee’s personnel status.)

Here’s what’s happening: PSEs whose conversion to full time was scheduled for Day 1 of Pay Period 20/2014, for example, should begin receiving the benefits of a full-time employee at the same time. The benefits include paid holidays, full-time salary, TSP contributions, and, most importantly, a permanent schedule with set hours and non-scheduled days, and a guaranteed number of hours in a work week.

If the Form 50 and subsequent adjustments to TACS are not completed during the same pay period as the conversion, the employee’s pay will not automatically be correct. Payroll adjustments are necessary for late-action Forms 50.

Here’s what Payroll Technicians and Payroll Specialists are observing: Management is submitting payroll adjustments that change non-scheduled time (Code 76) to Leave Without Pay for full eight-hour days and giving some guaranteed-time pay for partial days. (Non-scheduled time is used to account for time when non- full-time employees work less than 40 hours in a week.)

What are the chances that the converted PSE actually completed a Form 3971 to request LWOP? Not likely. Payroll Technicians and Specialists are not being allowed to request copies of Forms 3971 to verify that the time should actually be carried as LWOP.

If converted PSEs were assigned a permanent schedule, days that were coded LWOP may have been scheduled workdays under their new schedule. If that’s the case, the employees should have been coded for guaranteed pay instead of LWOP. Furthermore, the employees’ new schedules could encompass different hours than they previously worked, so they may be entitled to Sunday premium, night differential, and perhaps out-of-schedule pay. If the employees worked on a day off, they should have received overtime pay for that day.

Another effect of changing the non-scheduled hours to LWOP is that it counts towards an employee’s leave-earning status. Remember, for every 80 hours of LWOP workers use, they lose an increment of leave.

Recommendation: Review

I recommend that every PSE who was converted to a full-time position review the effective and processing dates on their Form 50 to make sure they were processed in a timely manner. Review your paystubs to make sure that all necessary adjustments were made.

If an adjustment was made you may see a notation, such as “Multi PP Adj” on the stub. See a steward and request a payroll journal from management, which will show you details of the adjustment. You should be able to match the hours paid/adjusted to the hours you should have been paid based on your new schedule. If you have problems reading the journal, I can help.

Thank you to the bargaining unit members in the IT/AS units for looking out for their APWU brothers and sisters!

IT/AS Negotiations

Negotiations for an IT/AS Collective Bargaining Agreement were resolved in July 2014, a full 3½ years after the contract expired. We had begun interest arbitration proceedings before we were able to negotiate a deal. IT/AS (Information Technology/Accounting Service) workers simply were not going to put up with more subcontracting of their work, so we had to dig in our heels.

During bargaining, the USPS admitted that they have difficulty hiring programmers at the entry-level pay they offer. The new pay schedule for Level 19 and above implements a graduated scale that raised initial levels by 5 percent.

Management also agreed to post and hire 50 new programmers within the contract period, which ends January 2016. This should reduce the number of contractors needed.

An outstanding item from negotiations is for the USPS to complete retroactive pay in a timely manner; management has told us there are too many urgent programming issues that demand attention before the end of the year. The struggle continues.

I have been told that negotiations educated our leaders, contract administrators, and lawyers on the degree of responsibility and technical expertise the positions demand.

Private-Sector Issues

Anyone who thinks the USPS is tight with money should see how bad private-sector trucking companies are. They do not value their employees enough to dip into their profit margin at all.

Mail Contractors of America, Pat Salmon & Sons, and B&B Trucking don’t hesitate to get rid of employees for any reason at all. These companies have an unforgiving attitude, which has led to an abundance of discipline and contract grievances. We are working to reduce the number of grievances, but the companies’ lawyers continuously delay the process.

I have been fortunate to have the help of Brother Richard Phillips, the Industrial Relations Department, and our union lawyers to develop a new strategy to get these cases resolved as quickly as possible.