Gearing Up and Gettin' Down (to Business)
(This article appears in the January/February 2015 issue of the American Postal Worker Magazine)
Tony D. McKinnon Sr., Industrial Relations Director
Negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA) are scheduled to begin in mid-February, and the Industrial Relations Department has been busy researching material and developing strategies for contract talks.
Our goal will be to keep contract language that is positive and change or eliminate harmful and ineffective language. We have been reviewing documents from several sources, paying primary attention to resolutions presented at the 2012 and 2014 National Conventions.
Delegates to the conventions will recall that many resolutions dealt with issues concerning Postal Support Employees (PSEs) and Non-Traditional Full-Time (NTFT) duty assignments.
Large Offices, Small Offices
Our research shows differences between large facilities and small units or Associate Offices on NTFT issues. Reports from large postal facilities indicate that initial problems appear to have been worked out in most cases. It seems that when management first posted numerous NTFT duty assignments, they either couldn’t or wouldn’t follow the rules on work assignments and overtime. They just couldn’t get it right, or worse, they just didn’t care.
As a result of many grievances, it appears that management has mostly stopped posting NTFT duty assignments with flexible schedules in large facilities and has been posting traditional full-time duty assignments instead. In large facilities that still have NTFT duty assignments, they appear to be limited to four 10-hour days, which are well-liked by union members.
At this point, it appears that NTFT duty assignments with flexible schedules are primarily utilized in small postal facilities. Locals that have NTFT duty assignments in small units and Associate Offices are still filing grievances on scheduling and utilization violations, but these violations are generally under control in instances where timely grievances are filed.
Overall, feedback from locals and National Business Agents (NBAs) show that some of the provisions involving NTFT duty assignments are positive. Among these are:
- The language that prohibits management from forcing non-Overtime Desired List (OTDL) employees to work overtime if there is an employee in a NTFT duty assignment in the same functional area in the installation. (JCIM, Article 8.5.D, p. 50)
- The creation of full-time flexible NTFTs has resulted in the conversion of Part-Time Flexibles (PTFs) to full time, especially in small offices, because it eliminates management’s argument that PTFs conversion will deprive them of flexibility. (NTFT MOU, p 313, #14)
- The language that allows employees with retreat rights to turn down the opportunity to retreat to a NTFT duty assignment while maintaining other retreat rights. (Article 12.5.C.4 or 12.5.C.5, NTFT MOU, p 314, #17)
- But that’s not to say everything about NTFT duty assignments is rosy; far from it. Harmful or questionable NTFT provisions include:
- The fact that a 30-hour or more workweek now qualifies as “full time” has been a mixed bag. Some PTFs were pleased to go from a two-hour per pay period guarantee to a 30-hour per week guarantee. But some PTFs who had been working more than 50 hours per week were converted into NTFT duty assignments of less than 40 hours per week, and are working fewer hours than PSEs in their facilities.
- A decision by the Office of Personnel Management has triggered a major concern: OPM ruled that employees in NTFT assignments of less than 40 hours per week are part-time workers. In addition to a potential reduction of “high three” earnings, OPM’s ruling will have a negative impact on the retirement benefits for employees who occupy such NTFT duty assignments at the time of their retirement because their retirement benefits will be based on part-time employment status.
- Another complaint has been that duty assignments of less than 40 hours have been posted without justification. However, many locals have proved that additional hours exist and have gotten the NTFT duty assignments reposted with additional hours.
- Employees who occupy assignments of four 10-hour days suffer a two-hour loss in pay when they don’t work on a holiday or designated holiday because they are only guaranteed eight hours of holiday pay. (JCIM, Appendix B, NTFTs – Holidays, Q&A #19, p 9)
PSEs: The Good, The Bad, the Ugly
Issues involving PSEs range from the good, to the bad, to the downright ugly. In fact, during the 2012 and 2014 National Conventions more resolutions were submitted on PSE issues than any other topic.
Generally, if you name a benefit career employees receive, chances are PSEs don’t get it. Thus, the focus is on increasing the benefits for PSEs.
One of the major problems regarding PSEs is answering the question, “Where is it written?” This question is asked by members, stewards, officers, management, and even arbitrators. Unfortunately, “where it’s written” is spread throughout various sources, including the articles listed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the appendixes and addendums at the back of the book, various Memorandums of Understanding, settlements, Questions & Answers that were developed after ratification of the contract, e-mails, the Joint Contract Interpretation Manual (JCIM), handbooks, manuals, and arbitration awards.
As a result, the Industrial Relations Department has developed a PSE reference chart to provide stewards and officers a quick guide regarding PSE issues. The chart also shows how PSE issues affect the various crafts. The PSE chart is current through Oct. 11, 2014, and is posted in the Industrial Relations section of the APWU website, under “Shortcuts” and “Steward’s Corner.” Obviously, updates will be needed in the future, but for now it provides stewards and officers quick answers to the question, “Where is it written?”
As we gear up and get down to the business of 2015 contract negotiations, we still want your input regarding contract language that you believe should be changed or added. Send your suggestions and comments to: Tony D. McKinnon Sr., Director, Industrial Relations Department, APWU, 1300 L Street NW, Washington DC 20005, or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line, “2015 Contract Negotiations."