Department & Division News

Two Recent Agreements: Staffing and Employee Orientation

(This article first appeared in the November-December 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Editor’s Note: Tony D. McKinnon Sr. prepared the article below prior to the counting of ballots in the APWU election of union officers, which took place on Oct. 6. His bid for re-election was unsuccessful. Newly elected Director of Industrial Relations Vance Zimmerman (and other newly elected candidates) will assume office on Nov. 12.

On Aug. 24, 2016, with the help of Assistant Clerk Craft Director Lynn Pallas-Barber, I reached agreement with the Postal Service on the issue of whether the “normal staffing” of two clerks per machine on Delivery Bar Code Sorters (DBCS) should be a minimum requirement. This is a monumental agreement that provides the mandate that management staff the machine with two people. The settlement addresses the union’s concerns about safety when DBCS machines are staffed by just one person.

The agreement notes that pursuant to Article 14.1 of the contract, “It is the responsibility of management to provide safe working conditions in all present and future installations and to develop a safe working force.” In addition, it notes that, “In accordance with the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), Section 891, ‘The Postal Service complies with applicable federal laws, regulations, and OSHA guidance materials regarding ergonomics.’”

The settlement addresses exceptions to the two-person staffing requirement outlined in the 2012 Joint Contract Interpretation Manual (JCIM). It says, “The exceptions described in the JCIM Q&As must not be considered an alternative to the scheduling of 2 Mail Processing Clerks on the DBCS.  During the periods described in the JCIM Q&As, the parties further agree the second Mail Processing Clerk may perform allied duties as assigned in the OCR-BCS-DBCS area”.

The agreement stipulates that there will be a special meeting of the Safety & Health Committee at the national level within 90 days (on or before Nov. 24, 2016) to discuss the establishment of a task force to investigate and address safety issues specific to the DBCS. 

The agreement is bolstered by specific references to safety, as outlined in Article 14 and the Employee and Labor Relations Manual.

There may be managers who will refuse to comply at first. Don’t be discouraged. This happens with new agreements. Like any new agreement, it may take 30-90 days for both parties to accept the change and comply with the language – the same period of time it takes for any major change, such as a new contract or other memo, to work.

We believe we have made great strides in protecting our members with the settlement, which will go a long way in resolving issues our members face on the workroom floor and providing a safe work environment. I have taken action that is positive and will be beneficial to all DBCS operators in the USPS.

Employee Orientations

A second recent agreement, which I signed on Aug. 23, 2016, stipulates that APWU representatives will be given ample opportunity to conduct employee orientation whenever:     

  • New career or non-career employees are hired;
  • Postal employees from non- APWU crafts are reassigned to crafts represented by the APWU, and
  • Non-career employees become eligible for the Postal Service Non-Career Health Care Plan (USPS Plan) or newly-converted Postal Support Employees (PSEs) become eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program, which offers lower out-of-pocket costs.

Previously some managers weren’t living up to their obligation to provide orientation in these circumstances.

Local Memorandums Of Understanding

By now local leaders should have finalized local negotiations. I trust the information provided in the Collective Bargaining Report and two PowerPoint presentations were useful in your efforts on behalf of your members.

Below is the timeline to remember if you reach impasse on items and wish to pursue the disputes through arbitration.

I would like to wish all members and their families a safe and wonderful holiday season and prosperous new year. May God bless you and your family as we transition into 2017 and may God cover the APWU leaders in their quest to protect and serve the members.

Timeline for Local Negotiations

A July 11, 2016, agreement between the APWU and the Postal Service set the timeline for local contract negotiations.

Written Notice of Intent to Negotiate should have been provided. No later than Sept. 22, 2016
Negotiations should have occurred for 30 consecutive days within a 60-day period. Sept. 8 through Nov. 7, 2016
Initial proposals should have been exchanged  Within the first 21 days of 30 
days of consecutive bargaining
Negotiations End Nov. 7, 2016
Appeal Impasse items 
(APWU to Labor Relations Service Center)
(USPS to APWU Regional Coordinator)
No later than Dec. 12, 2016
APWU Region/USPS Area Impasse Discussions End Feb. 13, 2017
Appeals to Arbitration  No later than March 6, 2017