Numerous Negotiations Continue
(This article first appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Support Services Division Director Steve Brooks
I hope everyone had a good time at the 24th Annual National Convention in Pittsburgh, PA. I think it was a very good convention. As usual, the delegates came prepared to demonstrate why they felt their resolutions had merit, and articulated their arguments appropriately. Our conventions and the process of passing resolutions is a true illustration of how the democratic process should work. As is probably true for most of the delegates to the National Convention, you hit the ground running when returning home.
The same can be said for your national officers. The convention took place smack dab in the middle of contract negotiations. With the contract expiring on Sept. 20, 2018, we went into a lock-down period with the Postal Service from Sept. 14-20, where the parties met around-the-clock in attempts to come to an agreement. In the end, we did come closer together on many issues, but were unable to complete the agreement. Because the parties were making headway and still talking, they agreed to extend the negotiation period by 30 days.
While negotiating the National Collective Bargaining Agreement, simultaneously the Support Services officers are negotiating terms for a private-sector contract with a company called Hollingsworth, which holds a postal contract to do Mail Transport Equipment Service Center work. This group is located in Temperance, MI. These negotiations are for an initial agreement and have been painstakingly slow.
Also, in addition to the National Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, we are in the middle of Postal Service negotiations for the National Postal Professional Nurses (NPPN). Again, the Postal Service does not seem interested in spending money to expand the extensive educational opportunities of this group of employees. With the increased threat of chemicals and substances being illegally sent through the mail system, you would think you’d want your professional nurses on hand with all of the necessary tools and training to properly be able to help in any emergency situation. The Postal Service seems to have a different thought process, one that indicates that they do not take the safety of our employees seriously.
The nurses’ contract ended August 18, 2018 and we are still attempting to come to terms as of the writing of this article. Much like the National Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, the parties agreed to extend the negotiation period since we are making some progress with the non-economic terms.
As we try to come to terms with the Postal Service and the Hollingsworth group, the time has come to begin contract talks over the Postal Information Technology and Accounting Service (IT/AS) Collective Bargaining Agreement. The expiration date on that contract is January 20, 2019. I expect these negotiations for the IT/AS Agreement to be quite difficult. On our IT side, the Postal Service has taken the position that they want to sub-contract computer programmers in excess of allowed numbers. This is an issue we have been dealing with for years, and it is about time the Postal Service recognized the skill level of its own postal programmers, and raise their salaries accordingly. On the accounting side of the house, they have been automating a number of processes and it has led to the reversion of accounting positions. To date, USPS have said that they will do this through attrition, and thus far they have held to that promise. Our hope is that the bleeding will stop and there will be an end to the reversions.
It is a never-ending cycle of contract expiration and renewal for the Support Services Division. The greatest satisfaction comes when you negotiate an agreement that improves the working conditions, pay, and benefits for our members. The struggle continues, but we are up to the challenge.