There is understandably some confusion about the different contractual dates as reported in my recent post. The cover of the contract lists one date and the governing contractual clause lists a different date. For many, the question is which one is right or does it make a difference? For starters, it does make a difference. A contract is a legal document that cannot unilaterally be amended. The parties, APWU – USPS have the authority to mutually agree to the effective and termination dates with neither side having the unilateral right to modify either date no matter the rationale. The contract begins when “they” say it begins and ends on the date mutually determined. Of the 12 contracts negotiated between these parties, this is the first occasion when a contract has been negotiated six months after the expiration of the prior agreement. This extended period was exhausted in the identification and agreement for changes comparable to the significant wage reductions and change to the guaranteed 40 hour work week. This “this for that” bargaining consumed time and effort as the union sought comparable return. Agreement was reached to extend the prior contract until agreement was finally reached, but this extension does not attach to the new contract unless the parties agree. They did not agree as referenced by Article 43 that specifically provides that the effective date is May 23, 2011. No amount of logic or rationale can change the clear agreement establishing the effective date.
Arbitrators routinely connect the new agreement with the expiring one in their awards, distinguishing new provisions with specific dates but this is the decision of arbitrators and it is significantly different from the decision of one party in a mutual effort.
The excuse that November 21, 2011 provides for continuity of dates has no legal or contractual basis. Extending that logic, most of the contractual provisions date from the original negotiations in 1971, so an excuse that the intent was to bridge unchanged language from one contract to another fails to be convincing. One would not consider putting 1971 on the cover of the 2011 agreement because some language is unchanged. No matter the rationale, one of the parties cannot unilaterally establish an effective date. The Postal Service evidently resisted using the November 21, 2010 date so no agreement was achieved.
From November 21, 2010 through May 22, 2011 the 2006 contract was in effect and it is the only document that can be enforced during that time frame.
The problem with the conflicting dates is that any infractions incurred from the dates of November 21, 2010 to May 22, 2011 – under the new contract cannot be enforced in the processing of grievances or legal matters while citing the May 23, 2011 agreement.
Infractions during this time frame must be grieved under the 2006 national agreement. The enforceable language may be the same but it is the appropriate contract that is being enforced. While many contractual terms are continuous they must be pursued under the contract in existence on the date of the infraction. The fact that the language is the same is immaterial. The Mail Handlers and Letter Carriers have the same language in Article 12 with few exceptions but an APWU Steward cannot cite the NALC contract as a basis for a grievance.
One cannot explain away two different effective dates. The only one that is enforceable is the one bearing joint signatures.