Pilot Program Spurs Debate At All-Craft Conference

Share this article

(This article appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Bob Pritchard - Motor Vehicle Division Director

One of the main topics among Motor Vehicle Service Directors during the APWU All-Craft Conference in Las Vegas in early October was the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by President William Burrus on Jan. 15, 2009, regarding the Postal Vehicle Service.

There is a small but active group of individuals who are loudly protesting the MOU and saying that it is the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the Motor Vehicle Craft and that the world is coming to an end because of it.

At the conference, members of this group made presentations, and their voices were heard. President Burrus also addressed participants, and he explained exactly what your national MVS officers have been saying: The MOU is a matter of self-preservation for our craft. And after much passionate and vigorous debate, the entire MVS Conference voted overwhelminglynot to abandon the pilot MOU.

The Simple Truth

It is just this simple: The Postal Service intends to contract out PVS work. Management’s instructions to the field say that every proposal to modify schedules as part of the pilot program must be accompanied by a conversion package to contract out PVS.

To date, 24 pilot-site packages have been presented to the union, but nearly 100 sites are under consideration for conversion. That’s pretty much PVS as we know it.

It is obvious that in our rapidly changing work environment, mail-processing machinery is getting better and faster, and is able to dramatically compress the time needed for morning dispatches. The USPS is intent on trying something new with PVS, so it is also obvious that work for members of our craft will not be in the future what is was in the past. It is our intent to see that there is a continued PVS presence.

At the conference, a motion was presented to direct President Burrus to contact the USPS and start the process to vacate the MOU. In the end, only 15 locals or state organizations voted for the motion and at least 150 (maybe more) voted against it: The decision was to continue with the MOU.

Unfortunately, those who were against the MOU were unable to offer any viable alternatives. They seemed to hope that after installations have been converted we could fight to bring PVS back. It is unrealistic to think we would be successful in returning the entire PVS operation once it has been contracted out. Yes, it might be possible to win back one or two, but we cannot expect to win them all.

A Case in Point

We have had some victories under Article 32, but it is a lot easier to remain viable than to be converted and then go back to a full PVS operation .Our members in Tacoma are still having problems in this area. Although the union won an arbitration case and the PVS operation was supposed to be restored as it existed prior to the conversion, only a small percentage has been reinstated.

In our opinion, the USPS should have given us all the work that the contractor had when the USPS transferred the PVS work in Tacoma. We believe that was the arbitrator’s ruling, but of course the USPS does not want to hire and does not want to create a new PVS in the installation. We can expect a struggle down the road.

At the national level, we are committed to support the Puget Sound Area Local and the arbitration decision throughout the entire process. We will see to it that their cases are elevated to the top of the docket, and we hope it will be arduous for the USPS.

The Tacoma situation demonstrates the challenge we face: Even though we “won” the arbitration, we were not “made whole.” We are going to have to go back and continue to fight. And, unfortunately, we believe that will be the situation wherever and whenever we are able to reinstitute a PVS operation. Two conversions in California are slated for arbitration; we are hopeful that we will prevail.

Despite all the noise about the PVSMOU, craft members at the conference voted overwhelmingly to continue the process in the hope that there will be better times ahead for the Postal Vehicle Service. We believe it is far better to have the option to participate in this program than to just sit back and watch as management contracts out entire operations.

Your national officers wholeheartedly agree with the observation made by one of our local MVS Directors: “Those individuals who are leading the charge against the PVSMOU are leading us over a cliff. They truly believe that we will grow wings before we hit the bottom. But we just do not believe it.”

Stay in touch with your union

Subscribe to receive important information from your union.