APWU: USPS Rejects Pilot Program For New Retail Position

 From the American Postal Worker Magazine, September/October 2008 issue:

During the last round of contract negotiations, the APWU proposed another pilot for a Crew Chief position, with the new title, “Team Lead.” An agreement to implement the program was signed after the National Agreement was finalized.

Fifteen sites tested the Team Lead concept, which supports our strong belief that rank-and-file union members understand the retail environment as well as, if not better than, most supervisors. We believe that there is room for growth in the number of positions under this concept.

As structured in the pilot, the Team Lead was not responsible for discipline and did not determine schedules or overtime. The Team Lead simply was a voice making recommendations to management regarding proper staffing of the window on a daily basis. The Team Lead also worked the window when necessary.

This last point was essential for the union to agree to such a pilot: The APWU did not want another supervisor in the retail section. We wanted more responsibility given to our workers. We also wanted more jobs.

Monitoring Problem

Tragically, this is all in the past. During a recent meeting, the USPS officials informed us that they are not interested in the Team Lead concept. The announcement came after a disappointing effort by management to monitor the success of the program. Basically, all management wanted to do was look at the numbers.

If “wait time in line” times didn’t improve, the pilot was a failure. If revenue did not go up, the pilot was a failure. If the “data” didn’t look good, the pilot was a failure.

We knew something was wrong when management told us that travel restrictions were preventing them from keeping their commitment to visit the pilot sites. We know that the Team Lead concept would work if employees and supervisors were given the proper training and support. Now the union will have to focus on generating more Lead Sales and Service positions through the grievance procedure.

There is new leadership in the Postal Service Retail Division. Unfortunately, we are left to conclude that new doesn’t mean fresh or forward-thinking, it just means “new.”

Bilingual Retail Associate

Because of the failure of the Team Lead pilot, the opportunity for success of the “bi-lingual retail associate” concept is also in doubt.

As with the Team Lead program, the union entered into an agreement in good faith. But it is no secret that the bilingual retail associate issues are complex and demand more than the usual amount of cooperation and trust.

At this time, there are no plans to discuss the bilingual retail associate. It is unfortunate that the parties who negotiated the agreements are no longer present to try to bring them to closure.