USPS Medical Units Phase-Out Begins
01/12/2010 - In the first stage of a process that will affect approximately 130 APWU-represented nurses, most of the 51 Postal Service clinical-care medical units were set to shut down Jan. 11, with the rest scheduled for closure by March 9.
Since the implementation of an interest-arbitration award last year, the APWU and Postal Service have been discussing staffing issues. “Bargaining-unit members have been asked to volunteer for reassignment under the Memorandum of Understanding that is part of the five-year agreement with the APWU,” said Support Services Division Director Bill Manley. “If an insufficient number volunteer, we expect the USPS to implement an Article 12 excessing process similar to what they have done to APWU members in the Clerk, Maintenance, and Motor Vehicle crafts.”
The APWU is scheduled to meet with postal officials on Jan. 13 to discuss staffing, including the voluntary transfers. “Via the arbitration award, the nurses are being given the opportunity to perform case-management work for the Postal Service,” Manley said. “Although the work is different from hands-on clinical work, the nurses will continue to be a viable bargaining unit.”
In February 2007, Arbitrator Linda S. Byars denied an APWU grievance over the closing of medical/health units in postal facilities. That arbitration resulted in the closure of 59 of the then-existing 110 healthcare units. The 2009 interest-arbitration award allows for the replacement of existing Medical Units with Occupational Health Offices, where the nurses will perform non-clinical work, including case-management for employees who suffer job-related and non-job-related injuries.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement resulting from the interest arbitration is retroactive to 2007. Although postal nurses have had agreements with the USPS since 1978, this was the first contract for the unit since the National Postal Professional Nurses merger with the APWU.