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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mail Handler Contract Arbitration Award

NPMHU/USPS Interest Arbitration Award is Released -- Sets Terms for 2011 National Agreement

Reference: National Postal Mail Handlers Union

(February 19, 2013) Earlier today, the three-member arbitration panel established to determine the terms of the 2011 National Agreement between the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the U.S. Postal Service released its Award. The Award is dated February 15, 2013, and is effective on that day, but was not released until today, Tuesday, February 19, 2013. The panel awarded a contract which runs for four and one-half years, from November 21, 2011 through May 20, 2016. A copy of the full Award, covering seventy-two pages, is available, below, as a PDF attachment.

The Award fully protects the jobs and careers and living standards of all 42,000 career mail handlers now employed by the Postal Service. After a two-year wage freeze, it restores, starting in November 2013 and continuing through May 2016, the historic pattern of annual general wage increases and semi-annual cost-of-living adjustments for all current mail handlers. In particular, the Award contains three general wage increases for all career employees – 1.0% in November 2013, 1.5% in November 2014, and 1.0% in November 2015 – as well as seven COLAs to be paid from March 2014 through March 2016. These wage and COLA increases follow the pattern previously established by the negotiated contract governing the American Postal Workers Union, and by the arbitrated contracts governing the National Rural Letter Carriers Association and the National Association of Letter Carriers.

The Award also continues the pattern, starting next year, of increasing employee contributions toward health insurance by 1% per year; and it includes, effective immediately, a small upward adjustment in night shift differential (of 7 cents per hour) and of clothing allowance. The Award also provides full no-layoff protection, consistent with prior practice, for any and all career mail handlers hired on or before November 20, 2011.

At the same time, the Award substantially changes the workforce that will be allowed to perform mail handler work in the future. In the larger facilities, all part-time flexible employees will be converted to full-time regular, the number of casuals will be reduced to 5.0%, and a new category of bargaining unit employee will be created. More specifically, these changes include the following:

Within 180 days of the Award (by August 14, 2013), all current part-time flexible employees working in the larger postal installations (those with 200 or more workyears of employment) will be converted into full-time regular employees. Those few part-time flexible mail handlers still working in smaller facilities then should be able to transfer to a larger installation and be converted automatically to full-time regular status, if they so desire, although the part-time flexible status will remain for mail handlers in the smaller installations.

Rather than the current 12.5% casual employees who are outside the NPMHU bargaining unit, the Award establishes a workforce that is no more than 5.0% casual employees, measured and counted by installation. This reduced number of casuals will now be authorized to work without being restricted by the “in lieu of” clause under Article 7.1B of the National Agreement, with each individual casual allowed to work up to 360 days per year.

The Award creates a new category of noncareer mail handler employee called the Mail Handler Assistant, or MHA. The MHA category will serve as the entry point for all future career mail handlers to be hired by the Postal Service. A maximum of 15% of mail handlers in any district may be MHAs, with a cap of 20% in any particular installation. Unlike casuals, MHAs will be members of the NPMHU bargaining unit, will be hired based on the postal exam and other routine hiring criteria, and will be eligible for conversion to career status based on their relative standing. Although MHAs will work flexible hours and may be separated for lack of work, many other provisions of the National Agreement will apply to their employment, and the Union will be able to represent them in the grievance and arbitration process. Starting pay for new MHAs has been set at $13.75 per hour at Level 4 and $14.50 per hour at Level 5, but those amounts will be increased by a total of 7% during the remaining years of this Agreement. MHAs also will have limited access to subsidized health insurance in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.

Significantly, future career employees (those hired after February 15, 2013) will be placed on a revised pay scale that reduces entry pay, but contains seventeen step increases of more than $1,300, providing guaranteed increases in pay every 52 weeks, with top pay at Step P being precisely the same of current career mail handlers. The wage scale governing future career employees will continue to be adjusted upward by general wage increases and COLA increases, although the COLA before top Step P will be proportional to Step P. The USPS demand for a permanent two-tier pay scale was rejected.

Also rejected by the arbitration panel were a series of draconian proposals from the Postal Service, including absolutely no general wage increases for career employees, no cost-of-living adjustments, and a drastic increase in employee contributions for health insurance to the current rate paid by federal employees. Another proposal from the Postal Service sought to modify, and effectively eliminate, the current no lay-off clause. In addition, the Postal Service sought the authority to hire and to utilize, without any contractual restrictions whatsoever, a total of 25% casual employees. Finally, for new career mail handlers hired in the future, the Postal Service proposed that their pay rates be 20% lower at the entry level and 20% lower at the maximum level.

The arbitration panel was chaired by Herbert Fishgold, a longstanding arbitrator and mediator with decades of experience. The NPMHU-appointed member of the arbitration panel was Robert Weinberg, from the law firm of Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC, which also is the home of NPMHU General Counsel Bruce Lerner. USPS counsel Robert Dufek was the Postal Service’s appointed arbitrator.

The Award follows fifteen months of work by the NPMHU, including its National Officers, the National CAD, its legal staff, and a series of expert witnesses and consultants who diligently prepared the union’s case for the interest arbitration proceeding.

A complete copy of the Fishgold Award is attached, including new wage and night differential schedules, new and updated contract language, and new and amended Memoranda of Understanding and Letters of Intent. A fuller description of the Award will be provided in publications to be circulated by the National Office, and during the Semi-Annual Meeting of the Local Unions already scheduled for the first week of April 2013.

We thank our NPMHU membership for its continuous patience and support during this lengthy and sometimes frustrating 2011 round of negotiations.

Read the PDF of NPMHU/USPS Interest Arbitration Award

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Brockhoeft was a mail handler who lived in Hebron, Ky

  In his war against abortion, clinic fire bomber has no regrets

"...During the 1980s, Brockhoeft was a mail handler who lived in Hebron, Ky. Raised a Methodist, he later became a self-described fundamentalist Christian. He credits a column written by conservative Pat Buchanan in 1984 for inspiring his attacks on clinics...."


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mail Handler Arbitration Completed

  Mail Handler Contract Update #15

Hearings in the ongoing interest arbitration proceedings to determine the terms of the 2011 National Agreement between the NPMHU and the Postal Service are now complete, with the final hearing held on Friday, February 1, 2013. Although the record officially remains open for additional submissions that might be needed by the three-member arbitration panel, the formal hearing process is over, and a final award should be issued soon. On the last day of testimony, National President John Hegarty concluded the Union’s case, emphasizing issues that have been front and center during this arbitration. First, he argued that the actual evidence of the Postal Service’s financial condition was contrary to USPS claims: “Its prehearing brief in this proceeding claimed that the loss was $36 billion during the past six years. Most recently, the agency has been telling the public that it is losing $25 million per day, which is more than $9 billion per year. And for Fiscal Year 2012, which ended a few months ago, the claim is a deficit of $15.9 billion. These assertions are essentially political statements, aimed at emphasizing the need for legislative action. . . . [F]or the Postal Service to constantly repeat these statements in this forum is disrespectful to the intelligence of this panel. USPS operations for the four years ending with Fiscal Year 2010 showed a net income of $700 million, including a $3.3 billion surplus in 2007 and a $2.8 billion surplus in 2008. Even in the years since then, the operational deficit was only $2.7 billion in 2011; it then went down to $2.4 billion in 2012; and it has been projected to be significantly lower in the current fiscal year (projected at $2 billion, but running ahead of plan). So when the Postal Service claims that it lost $15.9 billion last year, that so-called loss was comprised of $11.9 billion in retiree health payments that were not made; another $2.5 billion in non-cash expenses related to fluctuations in interest rates and their temporary effect on the long-term portion of workers compensation; and an actual operational net loss of $2.4 billion.” After describing the ways in which mail handlers already have contributed to savings for the Postal Service – noting, for example, a decline of 27% in the mail handler bargaining unit during the past six years and reductions in the number of mail processing facilities – Hegarty turned to the issue of workforce flexibility, which has been the mantra of USPS management throughout these proceedings: “[T]he USPS has consistently failed to take advantage of the flexibility it has been provided,” not utilizing its complement of 10% PTFs and 6% PTRs. “Of particular importance to these proceedings, the Postal Service has failed to utilize its entire complement of authorized casual employees. . . . Frankly, it is only because the Postal Service has been unable to manage its own contractual commitments that it has made such a ruckus about elimination of the in lieu of clause under Article 7.” Hegarty noted that the use of casuals is always limited because Congress has mandated that employees of the Postal Service “shall be in the postal career service,” and that the USPS shall, as an employer, “place particular emphasis upon . . . the achievement of worthwhile and satisfying careers in the service of the United States.” Moreover, the parties have recognized, for more than forty years, that casual employees may only be hired for limited durations and may not be hired in lieu of, instead of, or in place of career employees. The Postal Service’s demand to eliminate this “in lieu of” clause, if granted, would be a fundamental shift in the parties’ long contract history. Such a change should not be made lightly, without full consideration of the impact that such a deviation from the norm means to the career mandate adopted by Congress or to future employees of the Postal Service. Finally, Hegarty noted that if the “in lieu of” clause that traditionally has governed the hiring of casuals were eliminated, then the panel also should adopt the Union’s key proposals for preserving and protecting mail handler work for the career bargaining unit: full protection against layoffs for all career employees and the establishment of a Task Force that will return previously subcontracted mail handler work. “It would be intolerable,” Hegarty concluded, “for the Postal Service to insist on the creation of a full-time non-career workforce, while continuing to claim the right to lay off career mail handlers or subcontract out mail handler work to the private sector.” When a final decision from the arbitration panel is issued, it will be distributed.

Reference: National Postal Mail Handlers Union  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Saturday Mail Delivery to End (USPS National Media Release)


Article Title: Postal Service Announces New Delivery Schedule

USPS National Media Release:

Six Days of Package Delivery, Five Days of Mail Delivery Begins August 2013

February 06, 2013 Release No. 13-019

WASHINGTON — The United States Postal Service announced plans today to transition to a new delivery schedule during the week of Aug. 5, 2013 that includes package delivery Monday through Saturday, and mail delivery Monday through Friday. The Postal Service expects to generate cost savings of approximately $2 billion annually, once the plan is fully implemented.

“The Postal Service is advancing an important new approach to delivery that reflects the strong growth of our package business and responds to the financial realities resulting from America’s changing mailing habits,” said Patrick R. Donahoe, Postmaster General and CEO. “We developed this approach by working with our customers to understand their delivery needs and by identifying creative ways to generate significant cost savings.”

Over the past several years, the Postal Service has advocated shifting to a five-day delivery schedule for mail and packages. However, recent strong growth in package delivery (14 percent volume increase since 2010) and projections of continued strong package growth throughout the coming decade led to the revised approach to maintain package delivery six days per week.

“Our customers see strong value in the national delivery platform we provide and maintaining a six-day delivery schedule for packages is an important part of that platform,” said Donahoe. “As consumers increasingly use and rely on delivery services — especially due to the rise of e-commerce — we can play an increasingly vital role as a delivery provider of choice, and as a driver of growth opportunities for America’s businesses.”

Once implemented during August of 2013, mail delivery to street addresses will occur Monday through Friday. Packages will continue to be delivered six days per week. Mail addressed to PO Boxes will continue to be delivered on Saturdays. Post Offices currently open on Saturdays will remain open on Saturdays.

Market research conducted by the Postal Service and independent research by major news organizations indicate that nearly seven out of ten Americans (70 percent) supported the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the Postal Service to reduce costs in its effort to return the organization to financial stability.¹ Support for this approach will likely be even higher since the Postal Service plans to maintain six-day package delivery.

The Postal Service is making the announcement today, more than six months in advance of implementing five-day mail delivery schedule, to give residential and business customers time to plan and adjust. The Postal Service plans to publish specific guidance in the near future for residential and business customers about its new delivery schedule.

Given the ongoing financial challenges, the Postal Service Board of Governors last month directed postal management to accelerate the restructuring of Postal Service operations in order to strengthen Postal Service finances.

“The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports these steps as a responsible and reasonable approach to improving our financial situation,” said Donahoe. “The Postal Service has a responsibility to take the steps necessary to return to long-term financial stability and ensure the continued affordability of the U.S. Mail.”

The operational plan for the new delivery schedule anticipates a combination of employee reassignment and attrition and is expected to achieve cost savings of approximately $2 billion annually when fully implemented.

The Postal Service is currently implementing major restructuring throughout its retail, delivery and mail processing operations. Since 2006, the Postal Service has reduced its annual cost base by approximately $15 billion, reduced the size of its career workforce by 193,000 or 28 percent, and has consolidated more than 200 mail processing locations. During these unprecedented initiatives, the Postal Service continued to deliver record high levels of service to its customers.

While the change in the delivery schedule announced today is one of the actions needed to restore the financial health of the Postal Service, legislative change is urgently needed to address matters outside the Postal Service’s control. The Postal Service continues to seek legislation to provide it with greater flexibility to control costs and generate new revenue and encourages the 113th Congress to make postal reform legislation an urgent priority.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations. ¹ Sources: Gallup Poll, March 26, 2010 • New York Times/CBS News, June 27, 2012 • USA Today, March 17, 2010 • Washington Post, March 30, 2010


Saturday mail delivery to end

  Postal Service will end Saturday mail delivery

"...The Postal Service plans to drop Saturday delivery of first-class mail by August in its latest effort to cut costs after losing nearly $16 billion last fiscal year, the cash-strapped mail agency said on Wednesday...."

Reference: Reuters  

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