The Protection of Skilled Work Continues
(This article first appeared in the May-June 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
By Motor Vehicle Service Craft Directors
As the Motor Vehicle Division continues this year's national arbitration schedule, we are focused on preserving and upgrading highly skilled work in Postal Vehicle Service (PVS). The first case on this year’s docket was the Schedule Examiner Vehicle Runs position, scheduled from Feb. 27-28, before Arbitrator Shyam Das.
The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) challenged the Postal Service’s shift of highly skilled bargaining unit work to Executive and Administrative Staff (EAS) positions. The Schedule Examiner is an essential part of PVS. This position carries through to completion all steps in the process of developing schedules for transit and local mail transportation throughout the entire area, properly coordinated with transportation contractors, special delivery and carrier delivery schedules and units.
The Postal Service has slowly been eroding the duties of the Schedule Examiner as network rationalization results in the reduction of supervisor positions. Claims by management that this work is becoming less and less are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The Postal Service is systematically reducing the number of Schedule Examiners across the country and shifting the work to the Supervisors Transportation Operations and the Network Specialists.
Article 1, Section 6, draws a clear line between the work of supervisors and the work of bargaining unit employees. The work of the best qualified Schedule Examiner Vehicle Runs has been shifted to EAS positions in violation of those lines. Management may not perform these duties where Schedule Examiners are assigned. In offices where full-time Schedule Examiner positions are not established, Article 1.6 still prohibits the performance of bargaining unit work by supervisors and EAS employees.
Instead of going before the arbitrator with the merits of the dispute, the Postal Service decided to bifurcate the case under the pretext that the union failed to raise an interpretive issue.
However, the APWU presented two witnesses during the bifurcation portion of the hearing: Assistant MVS Director Javier Piñeres and MVS Central Region National Business Agent William Wright, a former Schedule Examiner, who testified to the duties and work a Schedule Examiner performs daily. Additionally, the union testified that during the actual Step 4 meeting, MVS Director Michael Foster clearly stated the interpretive issue the union would present to the arbitrator.
MVS Division Seeks DIE/DSI Upgrade
On March 29 and 30, before Arbitrator Shyam Das, the Motor Vehicle Service Division sought the Driver Instructor and Examiner (DIE) – the current Driver Safety Instructor (DSI) position – to be upgraded one level higher than those employees they train. The MVS Division takes this position from a previous Step 4 award granting a higher level of pay for employees who train another employee of an equal level.
Arbitrator Das is very familiar with the issues surrounding the DIE position since his involvement goes as far back as 2004, when he sustained the union’s challenge that the Postal Service’s revision altering the language of the existing qualifying standard was a violation of Article 19. In that case, he found the language was unnecessarily ambiguous, and therefore not fair, reasonable and equitable as required by Article 19.
Subsequently, as part of the Postal Service’s 2005 “Safe Driver Program” the existing title of the Driver Instructor and Examiner changed to the current Driver Safety Instructor. As part of a general upgrade, the DSIs received a one pay level upgrade during the 2006-2010 National Agreement, upgrading the DSI position to a PS-07 position. The duties have remained the same despite the change in title and the subsequent upgrade.
The DSI is a highly skilled position and an integral part of the Postal Service’s “Safe Driver Program.” The program itself grew out of unfavorable publicity in 2004 concerning a number of children’s deaths in accidents. It should not have taken a national-level dispute (much less a national-level arbitration) to achieve a well-deserved upgrade for these positions.
SEAM Case Outcome
Arbitrator Stephen B. Goldberg rejected the APWU’s contention that the introduction of a computer program called Solution for Enterprise Asset Management (SEAM) to manage vehicle repairs at Vehicle Maintenance Facilities (VMFs) violated existing handbook and manual provisions.
The APWU filed a dispute asserting SEAM caused the reassignment of work across occupational groups in violation of Article 7.2. The union’s dispute stated how the program violated the PO-701 Fleet Management Handbook and violated position descriptions in the EL-201 Handbook. The APWU also argued that SEAM resulted in supervisors performing bargaining unit work in violation of Article 1, Section 6.
Arbitrator Goldberg reaffirmed that Articles 7.2 and 1.6 of the National Agreement limit management’s right to make changes in the workplace. However, he ruled “the essential nature of the work performed by technicians and stockroom employees under SEAM is not meaningfully different than it was” before SEAM’s implementation.
The Arbitrator’s finding that SEAM “did not change any Postal Service Handbook” led him to conclude that “the Postal Service did not violate Article 19 by implementing SEAM without Article 19 notice to the Union.” However, he remanded to the parties the question whether or not the Postal Service violated Article 19 “by not furnishing the SEAM Coordinator Guide to the Union upon its issuance.”
Arbitrator Goldberg also rejected the Postal Service’s contentions that it had complied with Article 19. The Postal Service claimed it complied because it gave the union all it was entitled to under this article. It also argued the union’s appeal to arbitration under Article 19 was untimely.
Under the Award, the APWU has a right to meet further with the Postal Service on SEAM and, if necessary, to seek a remedy for the Postal Service’s untimely provision of the SEAM Coordinator Guide to the union.
The Award reconfirmed the principles that management cannot assign our work across occupational groups and must follow the requirements of Article 19.
As evidenced by the SEAM award, there is still much to be done in the MVS Craft towards protecting our work and significant contributions to the Postal Service. As always, we will continue the fight.