Ask the President
Would you be able to address any of the rumors that are floating around the Postal Service?
Thank you for inquiry about rumors that are circulating throughout the Postal Service. Your question is timely, given the current events in the USPS and in the nation.
Over recent months I have informed the membership of significant changes that will be made in response to the economic slump and the corresponding reduction in mail volume, which has produced massive USPS deficits.
I am aware that many postal employees and union activists believe there is a union response that can mitigate the impact of these changes or prevent them from occurring. They believe that vigilant contract enforcement or political action can forestall the negative impact that is affecting every other part of the economy.
Certainly, the APWU and the other unions will vigorously enforce all negotiated agreements, and we will engage the public and elected officials in the preservation of postal services; but until the economy recovers and volume returns to its former level, there will be significant changes. Postal management has very few options.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement includes provisions that govern the reassignment of employees, protection against layoffs, and the assignment of employees. Strict enforcement of these provisions will restrict, but not eliminate, the inconveniences that will be fostered on employees.
The APWU Legislative & Political Department has joined with the postal community in seeking relief from onerous provisions of Postage Accountability and Reform Act that require the Postal Service to pre-fund future retiree healthcare liabilities. Legislation is pending that, if adopted, would relieve the Postal Service of the obligation to make annual payments of $5 billion for the short term. The temporary waiver of this liability is not a long-term answer to significant reductions in mail volume, but it will provide breathing room and time for an economic recovery, which is central to a healthy Postal Service.
Approximately 3,500 APWU-represented employees are exposed to the possibility of layoffs. The remaining APWU-represented employees are protected, but other changes will affect them, including relocations and reassignments. Part-time flexible and light-duty employees will experience work-hour reductions to a level that cannot support a family. The toleration for absences from work will be diminished, so that many absences will be challenged, requiring the application of the contractual “just cause” standard.
Until mail volume returns to previous levels, postal employees should anticipate that many, many changes will be imposed. The union will apply the contractual standards to each change, but many will be beyond the contractual limitations.
The success of the Obama administration in addressing the economic malaise besetting our nation and the world is the key to the future of the Postal Service. While many voters did not apply this standard in selecting the candidate of their choice, all jobs will be affected by his success or failure. Guns, religion, abortion, sexual preference and the other wedge issues that often dominate our political discourse will fade in their importance as the very source of our lifestyle — our jobs — are challenged.
Under the best of circumstances, and no matter how successful the incoming administration is, the economic recovery will not happen quickly. So, in the short term, postal employees and all other employees who work for a living can expect disruption and inconvenience for months to come.