An arbitration panel finalized a five-year contract for postal nurses on April 28 — the first since the National Postal Professional Nurses merged with the APWU. The ruling [PDF] came more than 20 months after the nurses’ independent Collective Bargaining Agreement with the USPS expired.
Neutral Arbitrator Stephen B. Goldberg rejected USPS proposals for lump-sum raises for the first two years of the contract only, and awarded annual pay increases in the amount of the annual percentage increases in the Employee Cost Index (ECI) for each year of the five-year contract.
The nurses will receive retroactive raises of 3.3 percent effective Aug. 18, 2007, and 3.1 percent effective Aug. 16, 2008. Wage increases for 2009, 2010, and 2011 will be based on the ECI.
Another key point in dispute was the Postal Service’s attempt to close all postal Medical Units, and to reduce the complement of nurses from more than 130 positions to 41.
The APWU proposed to maintain the status quo regarding the complement of nurses, and to keep the existing Medical Units open. In addition, the union proposed strict limitations on the use of contract nurses, as well as the continuation of no-layoff protection.
The ruling permits the USPS to stop providing walk-in patient care to postal employees who become ill while at work. For that reason, existing Medical Units will be replaced with Occupational Health offices, where the nurses will perform non-clinical work, including “case management” duties for employees who suffer job-related and non-job-related injuries. However, if the Postal Service provides direct patient care, the panel ruled, the work must be done by bargaining unit nurses.
The arbitration award created a Memorandum of Understanding that maintains the status quo regarding the complement until the parties can agree on a new staffing plan. In the event that the parties are unable to agree on a plan, the dispute will be returned to the Goldberg panel for final resolution. The award also established a new job description [PDF] for the “case management” duties.
The panel retained the provisions of Article 6, which grants protection against layoffs for nurses who have achieved six years of continuous service. In addition, the new contract contains a Memorandum of Understanding that extends the prohibition on layoffs for the term of the contract to nurses who were on the rolls as of Aug. 18, 2007.
The decision includes new language that limits the use of contract nurses to a three-month term, provided that when a nurse is out of work on disability, the period may be extended to six months.
The award modifies the Article 26 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which governs nurses’ uniforms, by giving them the option of purchasing colored uniform-style pants and tops, as an alternative to white uniforms, and by increasing the uniform allowance in each of the last three years of the contract.
The contact will cover the period from Aug. 18, 2007, to Aug. 10, 2012, except that health benefits for 2013 will follow the pattern of the APWU National Agreement for that year.
APWU President William Burrus praised the award. “In the face of the Postal Service’s financial crisis, Arbitrator Goldberg rejected management’s assertion that the USPS is unable to grant the nurses fair pay. Our negotiating team did an excellent job,” he said.
The Negotiation Committee consisted of Support Services Craft Director Bill Manley, NPPN President Idell Mitchell, Vice President Maria Hicks, and Executive Board members Jane Freeman, Emily Jones, and Suzanne Deweese. Rich Edelman, an attorney with O’Donnell, Schwartz and Anderson, served as the APWU advocate during the hearings.
In addition to Goldberg, the three-member arbitration panel consisted of APWU-appointee Darryl Anderson and USPS-appointee Kevin Rachel.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the National Postal Professional Nurses Union and the Postal Service expired on Aug. 17, 2007. Shortly thereafter, the NPPN merged with the APWU.