Department & Division News

The Ripple Effect of Clerk Craft Upgrades

(This article appeared in the March/April 2006 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

On March 18, air records processors, bulk mail clerks, and time and Attendance Clerks (TACS) will be upgraded from PS-5 to PS-6, and Ramp Clerks (PS-6) will be upgraded to Level 7.

Because the upgrades were part of the one-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (ratified last August), none of the incumbents who hold duty assignments under these position descriptions will have their assignments reposted.

The upgrades also may be significant to Sales and Services Associates (SSAs) and Sales, Services and Distribution Associates (SSDAs) who handle bulk mail.

The Standard Position Description states that a Bulk Mail Clerk “accepts, classifies, and computes the chargeable postage on second- or third-class mail matter or both.”

Such clerks, who typically work in Bulk Mail Acceptance Units, must attend a two-week training and testing regimen at the Business Mail Academy in Norman, OK.

They also must receive a week of on-the-job training in their home office in order to qualify as a successful bidder.

In the “Business Mail Acceptance Training for Associate Offices” study guide the Postal Service recognizes that “there are thousands of Postal Workers whose duties and responsibilities include the acceptance of business mailings, but who are not required to attend the Academy.”

The Standard

The Standard Position Description of all Sales and Services Associates (SSA, PS-5), Sales, Services and Distribution Associates (SS&DA, PS-05), and all Lead Sales and Services Associates (LSSA, PS-6)  states that they “may verify presort and bulk mailings of all classifications, computing and maintaining on a current basis mailers’ credit balances.”

But beginning March 18, employees who perform these duties will be performing Level 6 work when they accept and verify business mailings.

Questions and Answers

The Postal Service and the APWU have agreed to a series of Questions and Answers about how to apply the National Agreement after the effective date of the upgrade. The parties hope to preclude grievances over higher-level work assignments by establishing “mixed-duty” assignments with work in two separate pay levels.

The Q&A was signed on Jan. 3, and establishes that any employee who performs the duties of bulk-mail acceptance must be compensated at the Level 6 rate.

The parties also agreed that although upgrades for SSAs and SSDAs will not be automatic as they are for Bulk Mail Clerks:

“Section 233.3 [of the Employee Labor Relations Manual] contains the criteria regarding mixed duty assignments. Those criteria must be applied to determine if a particular duty assignment should be abolished and the newly created duty assignment posted at Level 6.”

The ELM requires that a duty assignment be posted at the higher level, in this case Level 6 either: “when a full-time employee is regularly scheduled every workday” to perform the higher level bulk mail duties; or “when a full-time employee . . . performs the work of two separate positions in different grades . . . on intermittent days . . . the employee is placed in the position in which more than 50 percent of the time is spent. If the time is equally divided, the employee is placed in the higher grade position.” [Emphasis added.]

Posting Duty Assignments

This means that no matter how much time is spent accepting bulk mailings during any particular tour, if the SSA does this work on a daily basis the duty assignment should be posted as a newly established Level 6 LSSA.

If the practice is not “daily,” but the SSA accepts bulk mailings for at least 20 hours each week, the duty assignment also should be posted as a newly established Level 6 LSSA. And if an SSA is accepting bulk mailings less that 20 hours per week (and not daily), the employee should be paid at a higher rate for the time actually spent on the bulk mailings.

As further stipulated in the Q&A, the parties agreed that when these duty assignments are upgraded by application of Section 233.3 of the ELM, they will be “upgraded to the position of Lead Sales and Services Associate, Level, PS-06.”

Academy Training

As has been the past practice, clerks who work in a Bulk Mail Unit must attend and pass the three-week bulk mail training program at the Academy. In addition, according to the agreed-upon Q&A, “employees who relieve [in Bulk Mail Acceptance Units] . . . are also required to take this core training program in its entirety.”

The Q&A outlines that “for the purposes of this training program a relief assignment is an assignment in which handling business mail in a relief capacity is indicated in the bid posting.”

Employees who are not working or relieving in a Bulk Mail Acceptance Unit but who are performing bulk-mail acceptance duties 20 or more hours per week also must attend the Academy program in Norman.

Employees working less than 20 hours per week with bulk mailings are to receive the full eight hours of training described in the Business Mail Acceptance Training for Associate Offices (Course 23201-09). This training may be either self-taught or instructor-led. There is no pass/fail examination.

Analyzing Postings

It is imperative that all locals analyze their window duty assignments. We must ensure that clerks are compensated at Level 6 when they perform bulk-mail acceptance duties.

We also must make sure that when upgrades to Level 6 are indicated by application of Section 233.3 of the ELM, the newly created Level 6 duty assignments are posted for bid.

Be aware that senior employees did not have an opportunity to bid on these higher-level duty assignments and some may want an opportunity to increase their pay level for retirement or other purposes.

Posting a duty assignment for bid is nothing more than the contractual application of seniority — we have long held that a union’s most important work is in the maintenance of seniority for its members.