Oakland APWU May Sue USPS Over Improper Involuntary Reassignments

The Legal Firm representing American Postal Workers Union, Oakland (California) Area Local #78 has notified USPS Bay-Valley District Manager Kim Fernandez of their intent to file a lawsuit for the purpose of blocking involuntary reassignments.  The letter points out that some employees have less than one week (instead of the contractual 60 days) to report to their new locations or face termination. ..

Kim Fernandez
District Manager
United States Postal Service
Bay Valley District
1675 – 7th Street, Room 307
Oakland, CA 94615-9987′

Richard Blancas
Senior Plant Manager
United States Postal Service
Bay Valley District
1675 – 7th Street, Room 307
Oakland, CA 94615-9987
Re: Injunctive Relief for Failure to Give 60 Days Mandatory Advance Notice

Our office represents the Oakland Local of the American Postal Workers Union. We have been asked to seek injunctive relief the federal court for the reasons stated below.
The Local was advised by management that there would be reassignments pursuant to Article 12.5 because of downsizing. Throughout this process, however, the Local and its members were never advised until just very recently of the specific details or reassignments to be imposed upon the employees.

Management waited until Monday, April 20 at 11:00 p.m. to advise a number of employees of the specific detail of reassignment. Some of these employees were not present at 11 :00 p.m. on Monday and did not receive notification until the following day. This meant that it wasn’t until that time the employees were specifically advised of what offices they would be transferred to as part of this process.

The employees were given in some cases less than a week in which to report to new locations. Many of these individuals are being required to report as far away as Sacramento and Fresno and other locations, which will require them to move themselves and their families . The current agreement specifically provides that employees are entitled to not less than 60 days advance notice of such relocation. This is contained in Article 12.5(B)(S) which states as follows:

Full-time and part-time flexible employees involuntarily detailed or reassigned from one installation to another shall be given not less than 60 days advance notice, if possible, and shall receive moving, mileage, per diem and reimbursement for movement of household goods as appropriate if legally payable will be governed by the standardized Government travel regulations as set forth in Methods Handbook F-10 , “Travel.”

That clause makes it plain that employees are entitled to no less than 60 days advance notice. The Joint Contract Interpretation Manual also makes it plain that the 60-day notice provision is mandatory, not permissive. See p. 83 of the JClM 2007 Manual.

The purpose behind that language is to allow employees 60 days in which to move themselves and their families to a new location. It furthermore allows them to obtain relocation management services. Obtaining those services requires advance approval of the new office which they are assigned to. Such approval cannot under any circumstances be obtained with the kind of very short notice that the employees were given of their new detailed or assignment.

The rights of such employees are detailed in the “Bargaining Employee Relocation Benefits” guide, a copy of which is enclosed to this letter. These benefits take time to be approved, implemented and to effectuate the benefits contemplated. Most of the employees involved are covered by these benefits since they are being relocated to a new permanent duty station which is more than 50 miles from their residence.

Among the benefits provided are relocation leave, trip expenses, temporary duty expenses, payment for the movement of household goods and various other benefits and expenses. Most of these expenses require advance approval and there similarly is no way in which these employees can get that advance approval in the very short time provided.

This is illustrated by the specific reference in the Bargaining Employee Relocation Benefit guide to the necessity of generating forms to authorize the relocation benefits. See p. 5 of Bargaining Employee Relocation Benefits guide.

All this demonstrates why the contract makes it mandatory that all employees receive “not less than 60 days advance notice” of the reassignment. It is plain that (these employees in many cases received less than one week. The employees are being told that if they don’t report they are subject to termination.

This is a blatant and unexcused violation of the 60-day notice provision. Moreover, it will impose grave hardship on employees, some of whom have family responsibilities, homes or apartment which will they have to close, transportation problems and other serious issues. This will eventually force a number of these employees to quit or be terminated because of the failure of the Postal Service to do what the contract clearly requires which is to provide 60 days advance notice.

Because the contract contains a mandatory provision requiring 60 days in advance notice, we have been authorized to seek an injunctive relief in  the federal court. We will be seeking that relief early next week unless some arrangement could be made immediately where these employees are given sufficient time to take care of their business and to be allowed those benefits which are promised by the Postal Service where these kinds of relocation occur.

The Local would prefer to resolve this without the need for injunctive relief. There is simply no excuse for this kind of short notice where it has such an adverse impact upon these workers. Some additional time to allow them to take care of these matters would resolve this problem.

Would you please have your lawyer or other representative contact me immediately? If we do not hear from you immediately, we will begin preparing the court papers and will give you notification early next week.

Please contact me immediately.