When Figures Lie
Sharyn M. Stone
Central Region Coordinator
(This article first appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
You know the old adage, “figures lie and liars figure.” In the Postal Service, most staffing decisions are allegedly based on data. The reporting systems are web-based, but the data still emanates from the work floor, and, unfortunately, postal bosses can and often do manipulate their reports.
The Joint Contract Interpretation Manual (JCIM) Article 12, page 4, states that if a study or report results in the reassignment of employees outside the craft or installation, that study or report will be issued to the union and a regional-level meeting is required. If local management chooses to make operational changes based on the results of a study or report in the local, local management will notify and meet with the local union to discuss any proposed changes.
That seems simple enough, right?
Well, when the facts and figures that go into the studies or reports are skewed, the resulting staffing needs are likewise skewed. Just about everything dealing with the principles of seniority, posting and reassignment is web-based. Jobs are posted through the Shared Services process. Staffing studies use electronic data to generate varied reports that impact all crafts, including Baseline Function 1, Customer Service Function 4, and more.
Validating the Data
For some time now, we have asked employees to make sure they clock-in on the correct operation and to notify the union if they are told to clock-in on an improper operation. The operation numbers should be posted on or near your time clock. If not, you should contact your union steward.
We’ve also asked locals to file grievances when employees are assigned to “standby time” while work is available.
We recommend such actions to ensure the office gets proper credit for all work performed. Many employees do not realize just how important small things can be in determining proper staffing.
Management seems to have a difficult time explaining their studies. It frequently appears the results are predetermined and the numbers are plugged in to support the conclusions. Often, USPS documents contradict each other and the information they use to validate their conclusions flies in the face of what we see happening daily on the workroom floor.
Missing Landing Spots
Likewise, with all the disruptions that come from staffing studies and supposedly excess employees, local monitoring of the bidding cycle is critical. What happens to assignments no one bids on is just as important as the jobs that are awarded. Unbid posted assignments become “residual vacancies,” which are used for:
Each bid cycle is important and must be monitored at the local level. Postal management is required to withhold residual vacancies in which to place impacted employees. When Area management meets with APWU Regional Coordinators, the Postal Service is required to provide a list of sufficient residual vacancies for the excessing event. Quite often, postal management does not comply with this requirement, which creates inequities in the process. A national-level dispute on this issue has been scheduled for arbitration.
All the Regional Coordinators have protested the failure of postal Area management to provide the lists of residual vacancies when we meet. We need the assistance of members and local officials to ensure that residual vacancies are tracked and reported. Local management is required to inform the local in writing when residual assignments are “withheld” i.e., not posted so excess employees can ultimately be assigned to them.
Forced Into the Letter Carrier Craft
The USPS reports very few withheld residual vacancies in the Clerk, Maintenance and Motor Vehicle Service Crafts. Most current landing spots offered by management are in the Letter Carrier Craft. The initial trauma for APWU-craft employees involuntarily reassigned to Letter Carrier positions cannot be overstated.
Management is no longer complying with provisions that require the USPS to ascertain whether employees meet the medical requirements and any driving requirements of new positions prior to reassigning them. Employees must meet the minimum qualifications for assignments in other crafts.
This issue is also the subject of a national-level grievance. Any violations should also be grieved locally prior to the reassignment, so the APWU has jurisdiction over the issue. Once they are in the Letter Carrier Craft, employees can also seek assistance from the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC).
Michigan Customer Care Center
The Michigan Customer Care Center (MCCC), which opened in October, is the first of three new facilities to replace Call Centers. The MCCC is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the APWU and the USPS. The second facility will open in California and a third will open in Kilmer, NJ.
In the wake of so much excessing, it is good to report on the creation of more Clerk Craft and Maintenance Craft positions being added to our bargaining unit. Approximately 300 Clerk Craft duty assignments will be established at the MCCC. As of this writing, the number and type of jobs in the Maintenance Craft have not been determined.
Congrats and Regrets
The special incentive offer has resulted in many of our coworkers deciding to leave the Postal Service. Their decision is, no doubt, a life-altering one. As our brothers and sisters leave, we wish them and their loved ones the best and thank them for their years of service.
While Regional Coordinators Omar Gonzalez, Mike Gallagher, John Dirzius, Princella Vogel and I extend our congratulations, we are ever-cognizant of our responsibility to continue to be diligent in protecting the principles of seniority and reassignment. Our struggle will continue through 2015. The Postmaster General has not given up his quest to downsize the USPS. We must remain united and persevere.