(This article first appeared in the March-April 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Support Services Director Steve Brooks
The year 2017 was busy with contract negotiations for the Support Services Division. We negotiated and ratiﬁed three separate Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs). Our postal unit, Information Technology/Accounting Services, and two private sector units – Salmon Companies and a Mail Transport Equipment Service Center in Urbandale, IA – were all completed within the year.
2018 looks to be much the same with negotiations opening for B&B Trucking, Operating/Facility Services and Material Distribution Center (which encompass Articles 40 and 41 of the APWU/USPS CBA), National Postal Professional Nurses, Information Technology/ Accounting Services (the current contract expires Jan. 2019), and a new private sector Mail Transport Equipment Service Center (MTESC) in Temperance, MI.
It has been a slow process, but after agreeing to a settlement to bring back displaced workers from the MTESC in Detroit, the new company in Temperance began the testing and hiring process to place them in positions. By the time this article is printed, the process will be complete, and we will have informed Federal Mediation and Consolidation Services (FMCS) and the company that we are initiating the bargaining process.
We are expecting that these negotiations will be contentious as the company was not previously unionized – and in our opinion, deliberately avoided hiring these displaced, unionized employees.
In the past, the Information Technology/Accounting Services employees have not gone through any real type of reversions, excessing, abolishment, or closing of facilities. Times are changing, and the Postal Service is now reverting positions on the accounting side in each of the three centers that have accounting, payroll, and ﬁnance units.
Management claims that the reductions are necessary due to the automation of numerous forms and processes. Therefore, the need for manual input and review by bargaining unit employees has diminished. In our ﬁrst labor/management meeting on the subject, the union was presented with the forms that would be automated and a brief description of how it may affect the review process done by bargaining unit employees. Typical of management, they had no exact information on how many jobs may be impacted as a result of the automation change.
Since that point, the union has learned that the original plan to automate the forms has led to management entering the forms. There will be no review of data by the bargaining unit, and instead of being actually processed by bargaining unit employees who have the expertise to correctly enter the transaction, the system will be programmed to complete the necessary adjustment. In essence it means that management will now enter the form, which then processes automatically and eliminates the need for any review of the adjustment.
The bargaining unit employees in these areas have the expertise to recognize the appropriate action that needs to be taken, codes necessary to correctly do the adjustment and the common sense to check the processed data for accuracy. How many of you would like to leave your ﬁnancial transaction, payroll adjustment or back pay issue up to your supervisor for processing? Very few I am certain, and for good reason.
We have ﬁled a Step 4 dispute on the subject, and continue to ﬁle on the reversion of the accounting positions, which appear to be random because the reversions are not in the areas where the automation changes occurred.
Management appears to be downsizing just for the sake of reducing the workforce. These actions have led to increased workloads and stress, which creates an unhealthy work environment. The struggle continues. We will all have to ﬁght to save our jobs.