Successful Negotiations Crucial to Postal Service’s Future
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service, faced with the most dramatic mail volume drop in its history, today began contract negotiations with the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA). The current contract expires at midnight, Nov. 20.
Employees represented by the NRLCA primarily deliver mail in rural and suburban areas. The NRLCA represents 67,000 career employees and 48,000 non-career employees who substitute for career employees on their days off.
“The drop in the economy coupled with the shift to digital communications has created the greatest loss in mail volume since the Great Depression,” said Anthony Vegliante, chief human resources officer and executive vice president.
Mail volume peaked at 213 billion pieces in 2006 and plummeted to 177 billion last year. By 2020, mail volume is projected to drop to 150 billion pieces. In 2009 wages and benefits represented 78 percent of total operating costs — $56 billion.
Because Congress designated the Postal Service as an essential service to the nation, if negotiations come to an impasse, postal employees are not permitted to strike. Unlike the private sector, an arbitrator determines the final outcome and is not legally required to consider the Postal Service’s financial obligations when rendering a decision.
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. It pays 78 percent of its employee Federal Employees Health Benefit Program insurance premiums while other federal agencies contribute 72 percent.
“The Postal Service needs flexibility to adjust to the nation’s changing mailing trends,” Vegliante continued. “Our dedicated employees are committed to their mission to deliver for America. We have a good working relationship with our unions and know they want to keep us strong in this changing environment. Our goal is to negotiate a contract that’s fair to our customers and employees and meets our financial and operational needs.”
Three other unions represent most other postal employees. The American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO (APWU) began contract negotiations Sept. 1. The APWU represents employees who work as clerks, mechanics, vehicle drivers, custodians and some administrative positions. Employees represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (NALC) deliver mail in metropolitan areas; and employees represented by the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, AFL-CIO (NPMHU) work in mail processing plants and Post Offices.
|APWU||211,000||midnight, Nov. 20, 2010|
|NALC||207,000||midnight, Nov. 20, 2011|
|NPMHU||49,000||midnight, Nov. 20, 2011|
The NALC and NPMHU begin negotiations next year approximately 90 days prior to the contract expiration date. For additional background information on labor negotiations and the Postal Service’s workforce, please click on these links: Labor Negotiations and Workforce.