Arbitrator Rules USPS Violated Contract By Subcontracting Installation Of Postal Equipment

From Gary Kloepfer. Assistant Director, American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO

This is a summary of Regular Panel Arbitrator Leroy R. Bartman in case H00T-1H-C-03081013 regarding the Postal Service’s purchase of a Low Cost Tray Sorter which was installed by the manufacturer. The arbitrator ruled the Postal Service violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement and ordered the bargaining unit to be whole.

At issue was the Postal Service’s decision to purchase a Low Cost Tray Sorter (LCTS) for part of the purchase price included the manufacturer installing the Postal Equipment. The Union argued that subcontracting this work violated the CBA for several reasons 1) career postal service positions are not being maintained 2) work is being performed by non-union workers, 3) the bargaining unit was harmed because it could perform the work in question. The Union also argued Chapter 5 of the ASM does not give Management a blanket right to subcontract. In addition the Union claimed the Postal Service violated Article 31 and 32. The Postal Service claimed the contract was a National Contract and refused to provide the Union with relevant information regarding the subcontracting decision.

In sustaining the Union’s grievance the arbitrator rejected the Postal Service’s position, “The purchase and installation of the Low Cost Tray Sorting System was a National Level decision. The purchase was not finalized until the Low Cost Tray Sorting System was installed and operating to U.S.P.S. specifications. The subject work in these grievances was not even technically subcontracted work & therefore not pertinent to Article 32 considerations. The work was installation of equipment that was purchased from a vendor. The USPS does not technically own the equipment until such time as the vendor completes the installation.” As such he correctly interpreted the CBA and Chapter 5 of the AMS and sustained the Union’s grievance by stating:

In his testimony Mr. Ventrini stated that the Service did not consider allowing bargaining unit members (emphasis added) to install the LCTS equipment. Article 32 of the National Agreement in clear and unambiguous language states in Section 1 B, “no final decision on whether or not will be contracted out will be made until the matter is discussed (emphasis added) with the Union.” Initially the Postal Service contended that the purchase and installation of the LCTS was a USPS National Contract and as such, was not under the control of the Memphis facility. However, Mr. Rodney Lambson in a letter dated June 2, 2004, sent to Mr. Gary Kloepfer, Assistant Director “A” Maintenance Division, APWU, AFL-CIO, regarding Q0C-4Q-C-04008803 (the grievance at hand) stated in pertinent and relevant part as follows:

The issue in this grievance is whether the Postal Service violated the National Agreement when it made the decision to subcontract the installation of the Low Cost Tray Sorter.

After reviewing this matter the parties agreed that no national interpretive issue is fairly represented in this case. The Postal Service in concluding its discussions with the Union on the Low Cost Tray Sorter indicated that it was not a national contract, and with this understanding the parties agreed that the installation of the Low Cost Tray Sorter was not a national contract. Therefore, whether there was a violation of the National Agreement must be determined locally based on the application of the particular fact circumstances involved,

Without prejudice to the parties’ position regarding subcontracting and grievance time limits on this specific issue, we agree to remand this issue to the parties at the local level and/or Step 3 for processing or to be scheduled for regional arbitration if appropriate. Any grievances filed based on this decision shall not be ruled as untimely.

Please sign and return the enclosed copy of this decision as your acknowledgement of agreement to remand this issue and to withdraw the Union’s unfair labor practice charge regarding the information request for the Low Cost Tray Sorter from the National Labor Relation Board.

In this case, Mr. Ventrini and Mr. Lambson failed to carry out the intent agreed upon by the parties in Article 32 which required the Union to be put into the loop with the required discussions and evaluation process before proceeding to any sub-contracting of bargaining unit employees. The National Contract, given the evidence, does not enter into or is a factor in this case. There is no doubt or question in this matter that Management violated Articles 32, Section 1 (A). (B) and (C) and ASM 535.111. Management admitted the purchase was not a national contract erasing their claim made in 2003. But, despite that fact, they persisted in ignoring Article 32 (B) and (C) requirements to meet with bargaining unit members to discus and evaluate the clearly enunciated language required by the CBA, Article 32.

Arbitration Decision On USPS Subcontracting Postal Equipment Installation