The Reality of Non-Traditional Full-Time Assignment
From 21st Century Postal Worker
San Diego (California) Stations & Branches to Post Hundreds of NTFT Jobs.
San Diego Area Local 197
Thursday, January 12, 2012
We are now neck deep into the decimation of our traditional full time clerk bid staffing. On Friday the 13th of January, a 72 page vacancy notice will be posted, with a handful of traditional positions, and hundreds of NTFT jobs. The majority are 6 day 30 hour positions. The plant jobs are mostly 5 day, 35 hour positions. My question: For a 7 hour a day position there is a lunch. But how many breaks are the clerks entitled to? The contract is silent of course, except for the “foot-in-the-door” statement in the NTFT memo about 9 hr assignments including a 3rd break. Anyone out there who already has a 7 hour job–are you getting 1 break or 2 in addition to a lunch.
The Reality of Non-Traditional Full-Time Assignment
Non-traditional full time (NTFT) duty assignments have caused confusion in some offices, and to understand what they are, how they should work, and how they came about, we have to review some recent history.
These new assignments were born in May 2011, when 76 percent of the members of the APWU ratified the 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement. Prior to that, the Postal Service was excessing clerks at an astounding rate. When employees were notified they were about to be excessed, they had to choose between accepting a new duty assignment — sometimes hundreds of miles away — or remaining in their installation as part-time regulars (PTRs) or part-time flexibles (PTFs). Thousands upon thousands of clerks received excessing notices with no more than 60 days to make the life-altering decision.
There were plenty of horror stories: Some clerks opted to remain in the installation as PTFs — and then were scheduled just two or four hours per pay period, depending on the size of their office. Some who were excessed lived out of their cars, others commuted hundreds of miles a day each way. Some rented apartments because they did not want to sell their homes in a poor housing market. Others were excessed to new installations only to be excessed from the new installation.
In cases where grievances were filed and the union prevailed, clerks were frequently returned to their former installation only to be excessed again. Some of the excessing led to family separations and divorce. Some people lost their homes.
In short, excessing was having a devastating effect on union members.
Replaced with Casuals
All too frequently, after clerks were excessed, management backfilled their assignments with casuals, who worked six hours per day. But the union was unable to challenge the replacement of the career employees with casuals because the casuals weren’t working fulltime schedules.
As excessing continued unabated, the membership sent union contract negotiators a stern message: Stop the pain of excessing!
To accomplish this goal, the union negotiated a provision that limits excessing to no more than 40 or 50 miles. That goes a long way toward easing the inconvenience and disruption.
However, during negotiations management argued that in most excessing situations, work remained in the losing installation, but it didn’t amount to 40 hours per week or it didn’t match the limitations on scheduling in the old Collective Bargaining Agreement.
So the APWU and USPS negotiated a provision that gave potentially excessed employees another option: nontraditional full-time duty assignments that would provide the USPS the flexibility to create jobs that would reduce or eliminate the need for excessing.
How It Works
Before creating NTFT duty assignments, the Postal Service should notify the APWU of potential excessing outside the craft or installation. Then, to reduce the impact, management should discuss with the union the potential for creating NTFT duty assignments.
Once the NTFT duty assignments are created, clerks who were full-time as of May 23, 2011, have the option to bid on schedules of less than 40 hours rather than face excessing. Employees who are not impacted may choose the non-traditional schedules for other reasons, and that would also reduce the number of affected employees.
What is a NTFT duty assignment? It’s not a traditional duty assignment, which consists of five 8-eight hours. NTFT assignments can range from six to 10 hours per day and 30-48 hours per week.
In accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding on NTFT assignments, which can be found on pages 188-190 of the contract, in Function Four (retail), the Postal Service may create as many clerk NTFT duty assignments in a facility as are operationally necessary. In Function One (mail processing), up to 50 percent of the duty assignments may have non-traditional full-time schedules.
In all instances, the Postal Service must make every effort to create “desirable duty assignments” using all available work hours.
There is nothing confusing about the requirement. It doesn’t give the USPS the right to totally revamp the workforce in order to meet a savings goal or conform to a computer-generated staffing model.
Some examples of valid operation needs are: The USPS cannot provide proper service to retail customers without making a scheduling change; cannot get mail to carriers early enough without a schedule change; is unable to finish processing mail in time to meet transportation needs without a schedule change; or there is an operational window to complete a task that requires a schedule change.
Another important operational need might be that excessing is likely, and creating NTFT duty assignments would afford potentially excessed employees an opportunity to bid on NTFT positions and avoid excessing. In other words, if there is not enough work for eight hours per day for five days per week but there is enough work for at least 30 hours per week, there may be an operational need to create NTFT assignments to reduce or eliminate the excessing.
Even in these scenarios, if done correctly, it may be necessary to change or repost only one or two jobs occupied by junior employees.
What Is ‘Desirable?’
Whenever the Postal Service creates NTFT duty assignments, management must make “every effort” to create “desirable” duty assignments from “all available work hours.”
Local managers cannot be excused from the requirement to post desirable schedules simply because someone above them in the management hierarchy insists that all NTFT assignments must be limited to 30 hours per week.
To create the desirable assignments, all work hours — including overtime, hours worked by Postal Support Employees (PSEs), hours worked by parttime flexibles from other offices, hours spent by supervisors improperly performing bargaining unit work, crosscraft hours, etc. — must be considered.
Prior to posting NTFT assignments, management must meet with local union officers and give them the opportunity for input in the creation of the assignments. We have developed an online tool to assist local presidents in these efforts.
In many cases, the Postal Service missed an opportunity to improve employee morale by violating the contract. Instead, management has created unnecessary employee anxiety and generated numerous potential grievances.