Enforcing the Collective Bargaining Agreement in Small Offices
The USPS has begun implementing several policies in small post offices that we believe violate the 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Although many of the disputes may eventually be decided at the national level, it is important that we challenge violations properly at the local level and make appropriate requests for supporting documentation. Below is a summary of several issues and the current status.
1) Hiring Level 4 Clerk PSEs for use in Level 15 and 16 Post Offices.
We continue to hear that local managers are hiring Level 4 Clerk PSEs who have not taken the appropriate exam to work in Level 15 and 16 post offices, despite the fact that the USPS at the national level corrected initial instructions that would have permitted this practice. Article 7.1.B.8 stipulates that PSEs must be “hired from an appropriate register.” Because hiring may lead to conversion by seniority when career opportunities arise, the requirement includes successful completion of the appropriate examination. This mutual understanding is reflected in the responses to Questions #4 and #5 of the June 28, 2011, Questions and Answers document. [PDF]
a) Any PSE that is hired must be hired at the same level as a career employee that would be utilized in the office. This fact has been clearly recognized in the jointly agreed-upon response to Question #7 in the June 28, 2011, Questions and Answers document. [PDF] The Level 4 Post Office Clerk (career or PSE) may only be utilized in offices with less than 190 revenue units (see the Position Description and Qualification Standard of Post Office Clerk on the USPS’ BQnet).
This is an excellent opportunity to start representing our newest members, the PSEs. If they were hired inappropriately at Level 4, we should file a grievance, citing the preceding arguments. As a remedy, we should request that they be upgraded to PSE level 6 (provided the appropriate examination was taken). In addition, we should request that any time the PSE has been left in charge of the office in the absence of the Postmaster, the time should be paid at Level 7 [either Special Postal Clerk, LSSA, or Lead Clerk (once the position description is established)] since the POA position has been eliminated and this work is now recognized as bargaining unit work.
2) Hiring PSEs in Level 15 & 16 Post Offices as Alleged “New Work” PSEs That Are Not Subject to District PSE Caps.
The USPS has hired PSEs in Level 15 and 16 Post Offices and asserted that they should be considered “new work” PSEs and should excluded from District caps on PSEs. The APWU disagrees. The “new work” exception for the cap on PSEs found in Article 7.1.B.6 is defined in that same section and does not include “in-house” work that has historically been recognized as belonging to the bargaining unit. In addition, in many Post Offices, current grievances exist resulting from previous USPS actions, such as excessing career clerks from the office and/or improperly transferring bargaining unit work to the supervisor. In such circumstances, we could never agree that this work qualifies as “new work.”
3) Postmaster Exceeding Bargaining Unit Work Limitations in Level 15-and-Above Post Offices.
Under the terms of the Global Settlement of violations of Article 1.6.B of the Collective Bargaining Agreement [PDF], postmasters and supervisors in Level 15 and 16 post offices are limited to no more than 25 hours of bargaining unit work per week. Postmasters and supervisors in Level 18 post offices are limited to no more than 15 hours of bargaining unit work per week. Postmasters and supervisors in Level 20-and-above post offices are no longer permitted to perform bargaining unit work unless it falls within exceptions outlined in Article 1.6.A. These limitations remain at the same level through the life of the agreement, even if the post office is downgraded in level. Postmasters and supervisors who perform bargaining unit work are required to record “what operation they are performing either by time clock, PS Form 1260 or other appropriate means” and that documentation must be made available to the union upon request.
We continue to hear about instructions to the field that are intended to circumvent this agreement. For example, in spite of the clear language requiring that “all time the supervisor or Postmaster spends staffing the window will be counted towards the permissible bargaining unit work limits,” we continue to hear about instructions that postmasters need only record the time of their actual window transactions. Our position is clear: If the window is open, someone must be staffing it. If the parties had intended that “only the time actually spent performing specific recorded window transactions would be counted” we undoubtedly knew how to say exactly that – but we didn’t. “All time” the postmaster spends staffing the window must be counted.
Again, when filing our grievances utilizing these arguments, the appropriate remedy in many cases will be to compensate our newest members, the PSEs, who have been hired in these offices.
4) Using PSEs in Level 15 and 16 Post Offices to Work the Window.
Article 7.1.B.4 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement states that in Level 21-and-below offices, PSEs who work the window may not exceed 20% of the career retail clerks in that installation whose duties include working the window. The parties have agreed that the “rounding-up rule of 0.5 and above applies.” This means that unless there are three or more career window clerks in an installation, a PSE may not work the window.
Even if these PSEs were to be considered to be “new work” PSEs because they are replacing PMRs [and the APWU strenuously disputes that contention (see #2 above)], that would only exempt them from the “allowable percentages of PSEs within a District” (Article 7.1.B.6). The “20% of the career retail clerks” in Level 21-and-below offices permitted by Article 7.1.B.4 is not a “District cap.” It is an “installation cap” on the number of PSEs who can work the window based upon a percentage of the number of retail (Function 4) employees who work the window.
This gives us yet another opportunity to represent our newest members, the PSEs. While grieving this violation using the preceding arguments, in addition to requesting compensation for available career part-time flexibles subject to the Hub Clerk Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) we should also insist on an appropriate career opportunity in the installation utilizing 3.E of the Postal Support Employee MOU.