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Department & Division News

Progress on PSEs; Attacks on BEMs, Custodians

(This article appears in the July/August 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Steve Raymer, Maintenance Division Director

The Maintenance Craft has made significant progress recently on issues of concern to Postal Support Employees (PSEs). The Memorandum of Understanding on Filling Residual Vacancies, which was signed by President Dimondstein on March 20, solidified the timing of the opportunity for Maintenance PSEs to convert to career status.

Maintenance Craft PSEs have the opportunity (their choice) to convert to career status based on their standing on the rolls (seniority) within their district when a Maintenance Craft residual vacancy occurs.

The process will continue as long as there are PSEs in the craft. This ensures that no Maintenance PSEs will lose their jobs because of a conversion opportunity for another Maintenance PSE. That was one reason the Maintenance Craft chose to apply the process by district – along with the fact that if the USPS followed hiring regulations, the senior PSEs should be preference-eligible veterans. Our procedure also provides a chance for PSEs in post offices that are too small to support a full-time regular position to convert to career at a larger installation in their district.

Unfortunately, some district- and area-level managers continue to ignore our members’ right to conversion. It’s unconscionable the lengths the USPS will go to come up with roadblocks and new “official” positions to deprive our members of their rights.

Everything about the work life of Maintenance Craft PSEs is bargained for by the APWU and specifically the Maintenance Craft. This is the same as for any member of our craft, career or non-career. We negotiated the conditions of employment that permit the hiring and utilization of PSEs in our craft. PSEs hold a recognized position for which the craft has jurisdiction.

It’s true that the situation in our craft is different than in other crafts. For instance, the Maintenance Craft didn’t have Part-Time Flexibles that could be replaced with PSEs. We did maintain Part-Time Regulars because in some circumstances part-time duty assignments are needed. Also, many of the 1,500 new duty assignments that came back to the Maintenance Craft in small post offices need to be filled by PTRs.

Our success in restricting non-career employees to Laborer-Custodian positions would have left PSEs with no opportunity to move to any other Maintenance Craft position. This is due to the fact that regulations prohibit non-career employees from being on in-service or in-craft registers. With this in mind, Maintenance Craft officers also made sure we negotiated a career path for our bargaining unit members.

Maintenance PSEs are, in fact, members of our union. In the Maintenance Craft they occupy what should be career duty assignments. They should be entitled to the application of our craft rules and procedures and, like with any other APWU craft, the craft’s jobs should go to the craft members first.

New Attack: BEM Staffing

In March 2014, the Maintenance Division received notification from the USPS of management’s intent to change the Handbook MS-1, Operation and Maintenance of Real Property, along with other related handbooks and Maintenance Management Orders (MMOs).

The point of the Postal Service’s revisions or replacements is to reduce the staffing of Building Equipment Mechanics (BEMs). The USPS does not change these handbooks, etc., unless it reduces our work and cuts in our jobs. In this instance, management also hopes to increase the subcontracting of the critical work done by our BEMs.

BEMs are responsible for HVAC, emergency equipment, electrical systems and also may get involved in field maintenance operations. The proposed changes are intended to “standardize” the preventive maintenance of air conditioning and many, many other aspects of BEM work, regardless of the size or age of the system and regardless of local conditions.

The agency also plans to ignore the manufacturer’s recommendations and use a process called “run machine to failure.” In essence, the USPS would rather run the machine until it’s broken than do costly maintenance or replace the entire unit. The APWU and USPS met on April 29, 2014, to discuss management’s plans.

In anticipation of the above notification, the union formed a team of selected BEMs called the BEM Action Committee. We have begun meeting with the BEM Action Committee and will continue to do so. This group is comprised of rank-and-file subject matter experts – BEMs who spend their day performing the work in question.

If your office is already involved in practices such as run to fail, or fails to conduct preventative maintenance, or engages in multiple route bypasses, we would love to hear from you. Please send your e-mail to maintstaffing@apwu.org or mail it to:

Attn: Maintenance Staffing - BEM
American Postal Workers Union
Maintenance Division
1300 L Street NW
Washington DC 20005

And the Beat Goes On

At the same time as the assault on the BEMs, management continues to lay siege to our custodial occupational groups. They try and try and try, often through ill-conceived programs like the Labor Distribution Code 38 Optimization in the early 1990s, to completely rewrite the governing handbook, the MS-47, such as the 2001 budget version.

Well, management is back again, this time claiming they only wish to improve the cleanliness of the buildings and to instill an “esprit de corps” within the custodial ranks. This will be done, according to the USPS, by adopting a standardized process for custodial work using the most up-to-date techniques and equipment.

The APWU certainly has no objection to improving the cleanliness of buildings. However, in the Postal Service, a new program is “dead on arrival” when it is presented to the higher-ups if it doesn’t include a significant reduction in the number of bargaining unit employees.

The Postal Service is extremely predictable in what their end game is – subcontract as much as possible; eliminate as many union jobs as possible.

Regardless of the attacks by the Postal Service, your Maintenance Craft officers will continue to keep you informed and involved in protecting and improving your work life opportunities.