Managing the Grievance Backlog
(This article appears in the November/December 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
It’s been just about a year since I took office. Wow, how time flies!
Since taking office, I have instituted a very aggressive arbitration schedule based on my belief that disputes at the national level must be resolved to bring closure and provide guidance to union leaders and members in the field.
During the past year, at least two national-level arbitrations have been heard per month. This has enabled us to get some great decisions that will enhance our field representation. We now have three national-level arbitrators hearing cases rather than two.
In October, we held our first national-level hearing before an arbitration panel dedicated to disputes over Article 19 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I believe many members would be surprised to learn how many grievances fall into this category, which addresses grievances the union files when we object to management’s changes to handbooks, manuals or published regulations.
Here’s a re-cap of the cases we are managing:
- National Disputes - Grievances initiated at Step 4 of the grievance-arbitration procedure: 425
- Article 19 Appeals to Arbitration: 152
- Interpretive Review - Grievances over interpretation of the contract: 321
- Notifications – Grievances regarding letters from the Postal Service about matters that may affect APWU members: 1,762
- Administrative Dispute Resolution Process (ADRP) - Cases on specific topics the parties have identified at the national level: 450
As you can see, the Industrial Relations Department has been very busy and we look to do more.
It’s Final and Binding
During the last year, I have aggressively addressed management’s failure to comply with arbitration awards and grievance settlements at all steps of the grievance procedure.
According to the contract, arbitration is “final and binding.” There is no point in filing another grievance to get management to adhere to a ruling or settlement after we win a case or enter into an agreement. This practice gives the Postal Service another bite at the apple; it must stop.
The APWU gave up the right to strike in our first contract – more than 40 years ago – in exchange for binding arbitration, and we intend to see that arbitration awards are enforced.
If you have arbitration awards or grievance settlements that management has failed to comply with, please send them to me.
Planning is underway for contract negotiations, which will begin on Feb. 19, 2015. Our Collective Bargaining Agreement expires 90 days later, on May 20.
We are preparing for war, but praying for a peaceful settlement that embraces the value of postal workers.
We are seeking ideas, proposals, and thoughts from union members. Feel free to contact the Industrial Relations Department with your input via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Negotiations, American Postal Workers Union, 1300 L Street NW, Washington DC 20005.
The Rank-and-File Bargaining Advisory Committee has been selected. Their names appear on page 13.
As in the past, we are asking members to refrain from taking Voice of the Employee (VOE) surveys, because management has a tendency to twist the responses and use them against the APWU during negotiations.
We are continuing to work to ensure our members are safe at work. I thank all the Regional Safety Reps for the great job they are doing in the field and on Electrical Work Practices (EWP) audits around the country.
Special thanks go to Steve Vaughn of the Indianapolis Area Local for helping to develop plans for next year. Our goal is to create a comprehensive 50-state safety program.
The Electronic Grievance System (EGS) is growing by leaps and bounds and we are excited to see the benefits for the locals that are involved. The EGS is a web-based system that allows users to fill grievance forms, save them, and add documentation at each step of the grievance procedure. Maintenance Craft Assistant Director I. Balogun has done a marvelous job spearheading implementation.
We believe EGS will help locals keep track of grievance activity and help the national office to cross-check our case list with local records.
We look forward to adding enhancements that will make grievance operations run even more smoothly. We will gladly provide training, support and guidance to locals that wish to sign on.
At the 2014 convention, delegates discussed the backlog of grievances, especially in a few troublesome areas.
In early September, my office met with Support Services Division Director Steve Brooks to address the grievance arbitration backlog in his craft. We discussed the possibility of implementing EGS. Several of my staff will be working with Brother Brooks to handle the grievances and prepare for arbitrations.
We are also in the process of working with the National Business Agents in the other crafts on grievance administration issues.
During the last year we have been able through negotiations to convert thousands of Postal Support Employees (PSEs) to career. We also agreed to provisions for retreat rights for excessed employees, while making an agreement to provide Part-Time Flexibles the ability to be converted to full time in many offices.
Other issues that we have been addressing are FMLA, Veterans Preference, MSPB, garnishment of retirees’ annuities, NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) charges and many other issues that affect union members and the APWU.
We look forward to raising the bar and challenging the many enemies of this great institution, the APWU.