Mike Morris, Director Industrial Relations
(This article was first published in the April-June 2011 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
We have a tentative agreement!
Noah Webster defines “watershed” as “an important point of division or transition between two phases, conditions, etc.; a crucial deciding point, line or factor.”
Clearly, this is a watershed agreement.
The decline in first class mail volume, the onerous requirement to fund future healthcare liabilities, the ascendance of electronic communication, and all the other challenges to our industry have been written about in great detail. The United States Postal Service finds itself in dire economic straits. It should go without saying that a healthy Postal Service is vital for our common good.
This agreement is beneficial for our current members: It provides job security by retaining the no-layoff clause; protects members from the pain of excessing by limiting transfers to no more than 50 miles; and returns to the bargaining unit work that was previously outsourced or assigned to supervisors and EAS employees. It provides economic security with fair raises and uncapped cost-of-living allowances as a defense against inflation.
This agreement is also good for management because it provides lower-cost employees and more flexibility to meet changing times and conditions.
|Click here to view the Tentative Agreement.
No National Agreement since the inception of collective bargaining in the Postal Service in 1971 has come close to the cumulative changes that were made in this round of talks. Throughout the bargaining process, negotiators were keenly aware that the Postal Service of today is not the same as it was in decades past, and we have paid our dues: We have lost more than 100,000 postal jobs in the past three years alone. Preventing additional losses was a top priority for us.
We simply could not move forward with “business as usual.” Concentrating on pay raises while working around the edges of our real problems was not an option. If we had stayed on that road, we would have little defense against outsourcing – and our jobs would be in peril. Difficult times call for bold action.
There will most certainly be areas we will need to improve upon, and we will have other opportunities to improve wages, benefits and work rules for our new employees. No matter what, we will keep fighting to protect your interests; that is what we do.
While it is not perfect — no agreement is — it is far better than what could be expected in interest arbitration, especially during these trying times.
Perhaps most importantly, our successful negotiations and Tentative Agreement prove that collective bargaining works in the public sector — despite the claims of anti-labor lawmakers across the country.
I am proud to have been part of the team, ably led by APWU President Cliff Guffey, which was responsible for negotiating on members’ behalf. An army of people contributed to these discussions — including national officers from headquarters and the field. I would be remiss not to personally thank three people who worked closely with me throughout the entire process, and went above and beyond the call of duty and friendship. Thank you, Phil Tabbita, Tom Maier, and Lyle Krueth: You had my back.
Help for Members in Small Offices
Many of you may not know that I began my career in a small post office in Gadsden, AL, and I subsequently served as state president and National Business Agent for that region. I am well aware of the problems that affect members in our small stations, branches, and associate offices.
Over the years many have criticized the union for focusing too much on the needs of members in large facilities and offices while ignoring problems in smaller offices, and while I do not agree, the criticism is not completely unfounded.
During negotiations, we made it a point to address the problems of members in the smallest of offices. The list of accomplishments for these offices is impressive:
- All PTFs in Level 21 offices and above will be converted to fulltime regular. The guaranteed minimum number of work hours for these employees will rise from two hours per pay period to 30 hours per week.
- All PTRs in any office will be converted to full-time regular. The guaranteed minimum of work hours for these employees will rise from two hours per week to 30 hours per week.
- There is now a maximum of a one-hour lunch-break for any employee with a non-traditional full-time assignment (anything other than five 8-hour days). 4 Split shifts must now be minimized for PTFs in small offices whenever possible, except where it can result in the maximization of PTFs to full-time.
- Remaining PTFs in Level 20 and below must be made full-time when the union can demonstrate the need for a full-time assignment of at least 30 hours.
- Post Office Assistant (POA) time is eliminated, so those hours may now be counted toward the 30- hour minimum for maximization purposes.
- Every effort must now be made to create desirable duty assignments from ALL work hours (including Postal Support Employees, or PSEs) for career employees to bid.
- Postmasters may no longer perform bargaining unit work in Level 20 and above post offices.
- Postmasters are limited to a specific amount of time that they may perform bargaining unit work, depending on the size of the office.
- Dual appointed Rural Carrier Reliefs (RCRs) performing clerk work are now prohibited.
- Postmaster Reliefs (PMRs) may no longer work in Level 15 and above offices.
- There are opportunities to increase hours in small offices where custodial work is being contracted out.
I am especially proud of the gains we achieved to protect the most vulnerable members. Now, more than ever, it pays to belong to the APWU.
Now is the time for locals to begin preparing for local negotiations. We have agreed upon a 60-day local negotiating period to commence on Aug. 1, 2011, and conclude no later than Sept. 30, 2011.
The APWU Industrial Relations Department will soon be issuing a new Collective Bargaining Report (CBR). This important tool will assist locals during their negotiations. Many of the changes in the Tentative Agreement will have the potential to impact local memoranda; locals and state organizations are encouraged to start planning their strategy early.