Under previous contracts, thousands of APWU members were involuntarily excessed outside their craft and installation, sometimes hundreds of miles away.
Although the opportunity to be excessed instead of being laid off — as would be the case in most industries — is an important right, excessing often had a devastating impact on employees who had to uproot their families and move in order to keep their jobs.
Excessing wreaked havoc on APWU members: Spouses had to quit their jobs, children were taken out of their schools, elderly parents were often left behind, and some union members ended up “upside down” on their home mortgages.
Limiting Excessing: A Top Priority
One of the chief goals of the union during last year’s contract negotiations was to alleviate the problems imposed upon our members by excessing. Given the business climate we find ourselves in today, with the Postal Service attempting to close hundreds of post offices, stations, branches and mail processing operations, this was a paramount issue.
We successfully negotiated several changes to Article 12, which governs excessing, and to related Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) that improve the rights of union members.
One of the cornerstones of our new contract is an MOU on Minimizing Excessing, which remains in force for the duration of the 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The most important new right gained in the MOU is the prohibition on excessing beyond 50 miles from an employee’s home installation. The 50-mile driving-distance radius is measured from the plant, where one exists, and from the main office where there is no plant. The same rules apply to the gaining installation.
Alternatives to Excessing
The APWU also successfully negotiated several alternatives to excessing. Before employees are excessed outside the craft or installation, the Postal Service must review its operations to create more efficient duty assignments within the installation. The USPS must also look for scheduling opportunities to offer duty assignments that are consistent with local operational needs in order to reduce or eliminate the need to excess employees. For instance, management could create Non-Traditional Full-Time (NTFT) duty assignments, consider work that had previously been contracted out, or return work improperly being performed by EAS personnel, etc.
In the Clerk Craft, we negotiated changes to the Transfer Opportunities to Minimize Excessing MOU. Clerks in impacted installations are now permitted to voluntarily transfer (based on seniority) into residual Clerk Craft vacancies within their USPS district or within a 100-mile radius of their installation in order to reduce or eliminate excessing. This Clerk Craft-to-Clerk Craft transfer right, which utilizes the eReassign system, works much like a bid, with the senior applicant awarded the transfer opportunity.
Management’s obligation to separate PSEs or minimize the use of PSEs prior to excessing career employees from the craft or installation continues, as was previously required for casuals. In addition, Article 12 was amended to require the Postal Service to identify duty assignments currently held by PSEs in nearby installations within the appropriate radius.
To reduce the confusion and inequities regarding seniority that existed under the previous contract, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that there may be only one “moving day” for excessing within any postal Area in any three calendar-month period. To facilitate the union’s ability to make certain that excessing events are limited to the appropriate number of employees, the contract now requires that management prepare and provide the union with a Comparative Work-Hour Report, showing work hours both before and after the excessing event, within 45 days of the excessing.
Another important change in Article 12 is the new language that permits an APWU-represented employee who has been excessed to another APWU-represented craft within an installation to decline to retreat to their former craft.
No Lay-off Protection
Perhaps the most important protection for our membership is the extension of the no-layoff clause in Article 6 of the contract. Members who have six years of continuous service with at least 20 pay periods in each of the six years are protected. Additionally, we negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding that provides no-layoff protection for the life of the contract to anyone hired before Nov. 21, 2010.
As is true for all of our contractual rights, the vigilance of our members is what prevented Congress from taking them away, and is what will ultimately preserve these rights.
Mike Morris, Director
APWU Industrial Relations
(This article first appeared in the Mar/Apr 2012 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)