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Department & Division News

Important Gains for the Clerk Craft

(This article first appeared in the September-October 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Contract negotiations were challenging and arbitration was uncertain, but, in the end, the APWU was able to move forward on many issues union members identified as important. The gains were made possible by the power and leverage provided by the membership through Contract Actions Teams and other forms of activism.

Among the biggest concessions in the 2010 contract were huge cuts in pay and benefits for new hires starting out at the Postal Service. The difference in wages and benefits between a career employee and a Postal Support Employee (PSE) is approximately $26,000 a year.

Working as a PSE became the new pathway to a postal career, so creating an efficient conversion process for our newly-hired union sisters and brothers was requested in a number of resolutions passed at recent APWU conventions.

During negotiations, we made progress on that goal by improving the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Filling Residual Vacancies we negotiated in 2014 and placing it in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, effective for the life of the contract. (A residual vacancy is an assignment that remains vacant at the conclusion of a bidding cycle.)

A new pecking order for filling these positions gives Part-Time Flexibles (PTFs) the right to transfer to available full-time residual vacancies in other installations. An additional step has been added, which converts to career the senior volunteer PSE working within a 50-mile radius. The MOU also includes a pecking order for filling PTF vacancies.

In addition, the improved MOU establishes a clear timeframe for the conversion of PSEs to career assignments, which is three pay periods after the close of the posting cycle.

PSE Conversions

Significantly, we negotiated a conversion process for PSEs that is included in Article 37 in the main body of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The conversion process for PSEs to full-time career applies after unencumbered (unassigned) regulars and PTFs are placed into vacant assignments. The process of PSE conversion is similar to the process for converting PTFs to full-time, taking into consideration employees’ qualifications and preferences. Article 37 also includes a process for converting PSEs into PTF positions.

One-Time PSE Conversions

Arbitrator Stephen B. Goldberg ruled in favor of the APWU and ordered a one-time conversion of all Clerk Craft PSEs with 2.5 years of installation seniority in large offices, which took place Sept. 3. He also instructed the union and management to consider creating another PSE conversion opportunity after one year.

A Hold on Private Retail Expansion

The arbitrator also granted the APWU’s request for a moratorium on the expansion of programs that are gradually privatizing retail operations, threatening postal jobs, and jeopardizing service to our customers. The Postal Service is prohibited from expanding the Approved Shipper Program or increasing the number of Contract Postal Units (CPUs) and Village Post Offices (VPOs).

We will continue our boycott and protests at Staples to pressure the office-supply company to get out of the postal business. In addition to the pressure they put on Staples, our protests will continue to discourage other retailers from getting involved in Postal Service work.

Moratorium on Plant Consolidations

Arbitrator Goldberg also granted the union’s request for a moratorium on plant consolidations. If the Postal Service attempts to consolidate plants after the moratorium ends, management must first conduct new cost-and-benefit studies and public input meetings. The moratorium gives locals the opportunity to organize and prepare to challenge future consolidations.

Assignment of PTF Hub Clerks

A new MOU Re: Assignment of PTF Hub Clerks allows PTFs to express a preference on whether they want to work outside their installation, and outlines a pecking order for filling such assignments. The pecking order for assigning work in other installations (Level 20 and below) will provide greater protection for PTFs who don’t want to volunteer to work in other offices.

POStPlan, Vacancies and Travel

On July 29, 2016, the APWU and the Postal Service reached agreement on a series of Questions and Answers regarding POStPlan, Filling Residual Vacancies, and Travel. Some highlights are:

  • Former postmasters who convert to the Clerk Craft in their RMPO (Remotely Managed Post Office) on Oct. 1, 2016, “will not be allowed to bid on any full-time bid postings in the installation until such time that any PTF who is senior to the former part-time career postmaster in the same craft and installation has been offered the opportunity for conversion to full-time status.”
  • Clerk Craft employees who have served one full term as a PSE will not be required to serve a probationary period after conversion to career.

Our Power, Our People

Much thanks to the witnesses, National Business Agents, attorneys, and APWU staff members for their hard work during negotiations and arbitration. Brother Phil Tabbita deserves much appreciation for his hard work, knowledge, and advocacy as the APWU Arbitrator on the three-member arbitration panel, as well as his invaluable support during negotiations.

Special thanks go to President and Brother Mark Dimondstein, who provided the leadership and direction that resulted in this successful outcome. His aggressive fight for an enhanced and expanded Postal Service has greatly improved the image of the APWU as a union capable of fighting for its membership and the greater “common good.”

A handful of people with good ideas can only go far. We would not have been able to stop management’s nefarious contract proposals – such as a three-tier career wage system – or make progress on many important issues without the courageous actions of postal workers across the country. Resolutions and comments gave us wisdom and focus, and actions in the field gave us power and leverage in negotiations and arbitration.