(This article first appeared in the January-February 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
We all begin a new year with hopes for improvements on the past year. Even if the past year was a really great one, for instance, one in which the Cubs won the World Series. It is human nature to always want the next one to be better. This year, I think it is safe to say we are all waiting and watching what our new President-elect will do next.
Your Maintenance Officers at headquarters, Director Steven Raymer, Assistant Director A Idowu Balogun, and Assistant Director B Terry B. Martinez, will continue with the fight to better your working lives. Along with the Maintenance Division Council, which includes all the Maintenance Craft National Business Agents (NBAs), we are up to the task. We do welcome aboard our two new NBAs, Dave Sarnacki in the Northeast Region, covering ME, VT, NH, CT, MA, RI and parts of NY and NJ, and Craig Fisher in the Central Region, covering OH, IN, IL and KY.
We always engage in outreach from headquarters to our local and rank-and-file members looking for assistance with issues as they come up. Whether it is helping as a national staffing advocate or coming in to aid in testimony at an arbitration hearing, we recognize where within our own Maintenance membership it is best to acquire information and “subject matter experts.”
On the other hand, there continues to be plenty of changeover in the local ranks of those stepping up to help in Maintenance Craft representation. We are going to do our best to ensure you get all the “tools of the trade” we can provide you with. Generally, this has to do with information, education and direction. The desire and effort is always there to bring you the best and most current information we can.
Increase Training Options Through Webinars
We intend to increase our use of webinars, and to broaden the scope of items covered. This can be both a convenient forum, as there is no travel to attend, and a problematic one because of interruptions and time constraints. For example, at a state seminar we can present an in-depth class for three to four hours and be immediately responsive to questions. Webinars rarely exceed two hours, meaning the session is not as complete and the time for feedback and Q&As is less.
The feedback we received over the years was positive. There are requests for more of this method of disseminating information. Webinars certainly do take some time and preparation, but we will be able to increase our number of sessions and topics.
We will use both email and the APWU website to let you know when the next Maintenance Craft webinar is scheduled. Please check back frequently on apwu.org and/or send your email address to MaintStaffing@apwu.org to get on our email list.
Without a doubt, contracting out our work is the biggest ongoing challenge facing all of us. This strikes at the heart of our job security and our very livelihood. We continue to take strides in improving our ability to fight this scourge. Many of you in the field are quite adept at processing this issue.
Whenever you come across a contractor performing Maintenance Craft work, it is quite likely a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). It may be work you and your occupational group should be performing or it may be work that others should be doing. The point is, please get it investigated.
One of the more significant changes in Article 32 occurred in the 2006 negotiations with the addition of language which is now Article 32.1.C, “When a decision has been made at the Field level to subcontract bargaining unit work, the Union at the Local level will be given notification.”
The precise meaning of this language was covered in the national arbitration case Q06C-4Q-C 08228294. Arbitrator Das held,
“Accordingly, the Union’s position in this case that Article 32.1.C requires notification to the local union of decisions to subcontract bargaining unit work at local installations made at the local, as well as district or area, level is sustained. As the Union acknowledges, Article 32.1.C does not require notification before a decision to subcontract is made, and where work is subcontracted pursuant to a master agreement the local union need only be notified when the master agreement is entered into, and not when each service is to be performed thereunder.”
This means a couple of things. One is, as long as the decision is made below the national level, notification to the local(s) where the work is to be performed, is required. When questioned, the Postal Service frequently responds with, “It’s a national contract.” As we are all familiar, you need to be very skeptical of assertions such as this. Your request for information should include a copy of the contracting out notification to APWU headquarters.
The second thing to glean from the award is notification is made “when” a decision is made, so prior notification is not required. That word, “when,” means just that – at the point in time the decision is actually made. It’s when the decision is made and not when the work has started.
Lastly, about the service contracts, or “master agreements,” as Das referred to them. These are contracts for performance that are repeated over the term of the contract. In Maintenance, an example could be snow removal or window washing. The local is to be notified when any such contract is renewed. At that time the local can proceed with an investigation and, if they so determine, file a grievance challenging the contracting out of our work.
Article 32.1.C is a commitment the Postal Service cannot be allowed to ignore. Any contracting out that is done in your local’s jurisdiction without any notice to the local is clearly in violation of the CBA.
When sending contracting grievances up to Step 3, please be sure to include the names, job titles, EINs and amount of compensation for each employee you believe should be covered by any possible remedy. The compensation could be the number of hours or a monetary amount and also include the rate of pay, i.e. – straight time, overtime, or penalty time.
We all need to protect our right to perform our work. The Postal Service would like nothing better than to contract us out of existence.
Be sure to say “Hi” to your steward.