MVS Settles Dispute Over Postal Operations Manual

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In December 2012 the APWU resolved a long-simmering dispute with the Postal Service, involving who can drive postal vehicles, as well as other matters that affect the union’s ability to protect Motor Vehicle Craft jobs.

At issue was language that appeared in the Postal Operations Manual (POM) until the USPS deleted it more than a decade earlier. The language in question included a section that said that PVS vehicles “are operated by USPS personnel.” When the Postal Service deleted this language, field managers in many locations began to allow Highway Contract Route (HCR) drivers to pull postal trailers.

This was significant because HCRs frequently were not charged for the use of the postal trailers, giving them an advantage over PVS when they bid on postal runs. This led to an increase in subcontracting, and undermined job security for postal employees.

On Dec. 13, 2012, the APWU signed an agreement [PDF] with the USPS that restores two chapters of the POM, including the language stipulating that PVS vehicles are operated by postal employees. The settlement also stipulates that the changes “shall be made to the POM as soon as possible.” Furthermore, it says the settlement “is currently in full force and effect and has been in full force and effect since Nov. 2, 2007.”

Unruly Field Managers

The agreement is “in full force and effect since Nov. 2, 2007,” because the union first settled this grievance at that time. Under the terms of a Step 4 settlement, the Postal Service was required to publish a revised version of the POM that included the deleted language. However, the USPS refused to adhere to the bargain, failed to publish the revised version of the POM, and refused to implement the changes outlined in the settlement.

Apparently, when word of the 2007 agreement [PDF] spread, managers in the field complained bitterly. This prompted headquarters-level managers to attempt to rewrite history and redefine the English language — all to satisfy the unruly field managers. This happens all-too frequently, despite the fact that sign-offs at the national level are vetted by many people at postal headquarters before they are signed.

Managers claimed the 2007 sign-off was null and void because it had not been published. The settlement was therefore, meaningless, they said. Of course, the union demanded that management adhere to our agreement and pursued the matter vigorously.

The fact that the new agreement “has been in effect since Nov. 2, 2007,” is significant because many grievances were filed protesting the use of postal vehicles by non-postal personnel.  The settlement should result in resolution of these cases in favor of the union.

Other Important Provisions

Many other important provisions of the POM were restored by virtue of the sign-off. These include: the requirement that the USPS use Form 5398 to record every HCR trip scheduled to serve a facility; that anyone driving a postal vehicle must be qualified and must have “driving privileges;” that management must provide the union with the cost of contracts when if the union submits a cost comparison, and more.

We fought hard to get the language of the POM restored. We kept fighting for it, and the Postal Service kept trying to eliminate it through inaction. Ultimately, we were successful — when our case was on the verge of being heard in arbitration!

Although it is a sad commentary on the state of affairs, it appears the Postal Service is much more willing to adhere to settlements when arbitration dates are pending.

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