Arbitrator Blasts Management In BMC Staffing Case
(This article first appeared in the January-February 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
The APWU won an important grievance involving maintenance Craft staffing at Bulk Mail Centers on Oct. 19, when Arbitrator Ira Jaffe issued a stinging rebuke to the Postal Service.
The arbitrator directed the USPS to rescind Maintenance Management Order 112-10 (MMO 112-10) and restore the staffing and staffing regulations that were in effect before it was issued. The 2010 MMO instructed managers at BMCs (also known as Network Distribution Centers) to utilize the Electronic Work Hour Estimator Program (e-WHEP) to determine staffing, replacing a program known as “BMC-Gold.” The use of the new program resulted in the elimination of jobs at all the BMCs that utilized it.
Arbitrator Jaffe laid the blame for the inconvenience his ruling might cause the Postal Service squarely on management. “Any resulting disruption in the development of post-Award maintenance staffing for NDCs is unfortunate, but is the product of the Postal Service’s failures to have provided sufficient and accurate information to the Union at the time that the changes were first being considered for formal implementation,” he wrote.
He ruled that the Postal Service failed to meet its obligations under Article 19 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which requires management to furnish the union with specific information when it proposes changes to handbooks and manuals. “The Postal Service failed to introduce significant and detailed, first hand information that made clear the projected impact of the proposed changes on wages, hours, and working conditions at the time that the changes were developed and proposed or the actual impact of the changes on wages, hours, and working conditions based upon subsequent events,” he said.
Management’s “significant failures to comply with Article 19 cannot be dismissed as harmless error,” Jaffe concluded.
This win was the result of a great team effort by our Maintenance Craft officers and attorneys, with Brother Balogun acting as the case officer. The bad faith exhibited by the Postal Service at the arbitration hearing, including raising arguments there for the first time, was some of the worst we have experienced. We had our concerns about this arbitrator being new to the Postal Service and we are very glad he saw through management’s shenanigans.
As a result of the ruling, the Postal Service now has a clear, meaningful and significant path to follow in order to comply with the procedures of Article 19.
Arbitrator Jaffe refrained from issuing a monetary remedy, concluding that such damages were beyond the scope of the case before him. He said, however, that grievances filed locally should address matters that could generate monetary remedies, such as overtime assignments, the effects of staffing reductions, etc.
When the 21 Bulk Mail Centers were established in 1978 and in 1979, the Postal Service promulgated the Interim Maintenance Staffing Guidelines for BMCs. The separate staffing procedures were issued in recognition of the differences in equipment and work in BMCs compared to typical Mail Processing & Distribution Centers. The very large conveyors, mail movement system, and the size and nature of work at BMCs required no less.
In 2004, management attempted to modify the staffing criteria by issuing a new method referred to as BMC Gold, which was a reference to the individual that helped develop the spreadsheet capable of performing the staffing computations.
We believe the Postal Service violated Article 19 with the issuance of BMC Gold as well, and there is a national dispute pending on that issue. In the vagaries of arbitration scheduling, the challenge to the 2010 staffing rules made it to a hearing first.
The 50-Mile Rule
The union and management settled another important case on Sept. 28 that resolved the occasional disputes that arose when the Postal Service violated Article 12 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement when involuntarily reassigning employees. The USPS believed management could unilaterally modify Article 12 and excess employees using criteria other than seniority if preference eligible veterans were involved.
The Step 4 settlement provides the protection of the 50-mile rule to the entire Maintenance Craft; no one is left out. Additionally, those who have earned veterans’ preference status continue to retain those rights. Under the terms of the agreement, Electronic Technicians (ETs) who are veterans are provided a choice of remaining an ET in another installation, possibly beyond the 50-mile radius, or availing themselves of the same procedures outlined in Article 12 that apply to everyone else. Whichever is the best arrangement for them individually is theirs to choose.
If we had not reached this settlement with the Postal Service, the entire Maintenance Craft – all 34,000 employees, including vets and non-vets alike – would have lost the protection of the 50-mile radius.
That’s because 50-mile limit on excessing was a feature of the 2010 contract that, unlike other provisions, expired at the conclusion of 2010 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
While there may be occasions where preference eligible veterans prefer to remain ETs and go beyond the 50 mile radius, the assignment will be as close to their residence as possible. They also will have all the relocation benefits provided by the CBA. Other than that, everyone – veterans included – will stay within the 50-mile radius outlined in Article 12 and the Minimizing Excessing Memorandum of Understanding, which includes reassignment to a lower level with saved grade.
Maintenance Craft officers also resolved several other grievances late in 2015.
A Sept. 30, 2015, agreement stipulates that the Postal Service can hire Postal Support Employees (PSEs) in the Maintenance Craft to fill vacant duty assignments only after completing the regular pecking order for filling vacancies.
In another settlement dated Sept. 30, 2015, the parties reinforced the understanding that additional training – not the threat of discipline – is the appropriate response to an employee’s failure to properly observe Equipment Specific Energy Control Procedures (ECP).
In a Sept. 29, 2015, settlement, the union and management agreed that coverage under the Transmittal Letter 5 version of the MS-47 Handbook would take effect on the first day of the pay period immediately after two conditions are met: 1) The training of the available custodial workforce is completed, and 2) The local staffing package has been approved. The package also must be supplied to the local union president once it has been approved.