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Excessing: Know Your Rights

Burrus Update 06-2009, May 14, 2009

In response to significant reductions in mail volume and revenue, postal management is aggressively adjusting employee complements. These modifications are generating thousands of excessing notices to local unions and employees, indicating that junior full-time employees will be reassigned to other crafts or more distant facilities.

Through collective bargaining, the union and management have established rules governing the reassignment of employees, and it is important that the rules be followed.

Unfortunately, management seems to be engaged in a dangerous game of “chicken” with workers — hoping to reduce the complement by coercing employees to resign. Management is attempting to accomplish this insidious deed by “reassigning” employees to non-existent positions in facilities far from the employees’ homes.

The reassignments are to “non-existent jobs” because in many instances the “gaining” offices are also issuing notices of excessing: That means no vacancies exist. (Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, excessing from a craft or installation must be to a residual vacancy.) [Article 12.5.C.5.b, page 66 and following; JCIM Article 12 page 13]

When confronted with reassignments that would require them to relocate hundreds of miles away, many employees consider terminating their postal employment — especially if they are not knowledgeable about the applicable contractual rules.

To combat this coercion, the union advises employees who are notified that they are excess to their craft or installation to make sure they are knowledgeable of all of their contractual rights and to demand specific information from management about their “new assignments.”

This Update summarizes the regulations that apply to reassignments from one craft or installation to another, and is provided so that APWU members are able to make informed decisions when they are notified of reassignments. (In addition to understanding these rules, it is important that employees facing reassignment contact their local union representative.)

Our Strength

Two of the strongest worker protections in the APWU Collective Bargaining Agreement are:

However, postal management has the legal and contractual right to “hire, promote, transfer, assign and retain employees in positions,” subject to the limitations of the contract. [Article 3.B, page 6] This includes the right to reassign employees in order to reduce the number of employees in a Section, Craft or Installation. [Article 12.4 and 5, page 54 and following, JCIM Article 12.4 page 3 and following] These reductions of employees are initiated in the form of excessing notices to the union at the regional [Article 12.4.B, pp 54-55 and 12.5.B.4. page 57; JCIM Article 12 page 3 and following] and local level [12.5.B.4. page 57; JCIM Article 12 page 6], which are subsequently issued to individual employees. [Article 12.5.B.5, page 57; JCIM Article 12 page 6]

Given the limits on the employer’s right to lay off employees, for most workers the notice of excessing is the most traumatic job action they will face. When informed that their place of employment will shift to a location hundreds of miles away, most employees consider the disruption to their personal lives — schools, churches, and family ties, as well as their economic and emotional investment in a community.

Postal management is hoping that many employees will respond to the pressures of excessing by quitting.

Our Ability to Fight

Following are the contractual provisions governing excessing of employees to another craft within the installation. Management must:

Full-time employees who are notified that they will be excessed to another installation have the right:

To remain within their present installation as Part-Time Regular, [Article 12.5.C.5.b.(5), page 68; JCIM Article 12, page 13] or

To remain within their present installation as a Part-Time Flexible employee; [Article 12.5.C.5.b.(5), page 68; JCIM Article 12, page 13]

If It Happens to You

The Postal Service must send potentially affected employees a notice at least 60 days in advance when excessing outside the installation may occur. [Sample USPS letters: Draft for Impacted Employees | Veterans Preference.] The notification letter typically contains few specifics, and some people who receive it may never be reassigned. This initial letter serves as notice to the employee that he or she is excess to the needs of the craft or installation, but it does not constitute a reassignment, per se.

As the excessing proceeds, some employees will receive follow-up letters, providing them with a choice of new duty assignments, or informing them when and where to report for their new assignment in their new facility. [Sample USPS letters: Offer of Withheld Residual Vacancies to Impacted Employees | Employee Notification, Involuntary Reassignment, Within the Craft, Outside the Installation] Throughout this process, employees should inquire about their rights and options.

'Commuting Area' and Distance Requirements for Discontinued Service Retirement, Severance Pay, and Relocation Benefits [PDF]

In particular, if you learn that your new installation is outside your commuting area and/or at least 50 miles farther than the distance between your present duty station and your current residence, you should request the following documentation from management, in writing: [When Excessing Occurs, page 14; OPM Publication 164, Question 43, page 25]

  • An official notice of excessing, including the new office and duty assignment;

  • Five days of administrative leave to visit the community of the new installation; [When Excessing Occurs, page 15] An itemized list of allowances permitted for relocated employees, including moving expenses, mileage, per diem payments etc;

  • An indication of whether the reassignment is 50 miles outside the commuting area of their present facility, and, if so, whether the employee is entitled to Discontinued Service Retirement. [When Excessing Occurs, page 7; Publication 164, Question 5, page 4 and following]

  • A determination of whether the employee qualifies for severance pay and if not, why not; [When Excessing Occurs, page 11; Publication 164 Question 5, page 5 and following]

  • A copy of the package explaining the relocation benefits that are available and how to apply for them;

  • A copy of the residual duty assignment to which the excessed employee will be reassigned, including the hours, days, and duties of the assignment; (Employees must meet the minimum qualifications of the new duty assignment at the time of excessing.) [Article 12.5.B.8, page 58; JCIM Article 12, pages 5, 9, 12], and

  • Identification of the last day on which the employee may elect to transfer to PTR or PTF and remain within the installation, and what the hours and days of the PTR assignment would be. (In the Motor Vehicle Craft, the option to remain within the facility is to remain as a PTF.) [JCIM Article 12 page 14]

Employees are advised to call management’s bluff and demand all their contractual rights, as well as the information outlined above. [Sample letter (editable MS Word document)] You should modify the letter provided above to address your unique circumstances, and your need for specific information .

Clerk Craft employees who elect to remain in their facility as Part-Time-Regulars enjoy all bidding rights to return to full time. However, they do not have a contractual right to eight hours of work or pay, and cannot return to full time until all excessed employees with retreat rights have had an opportunity to exercise those rights. PTFs have a guarantee of 2 or 4 hours of work or pay, depending on office size.

Excessing in the Maintenance Craft [Article 38.3.K, page 211; JCIM Article 12, page 8] and the Motor Vehicle Craft [Article 12.5.C.7, pages 71-72; Article 12.5.C.5.b.1.a, page 66; Article 39.1.B.8, page 234; Article 39.1.D, page 236], is governed by rules that are specific to each craft; [Article 12.5.B.9, page 58; JCIM Article 12, page 8] however, the rules governing Severance Pay, Discontinued Service, and Relocation expenses apply to all APWU bargaining unit employees. For craft-specific rules regarding excessing from the craft or installation, consult a steward or local union representative.

Limited Duty Employees

The excessing of employees who have been injured in the performance of their jobs and have an accepted claim (limited duty/rehab) involves special contractual and legal considerations:

  • Limited-duty employees who have been assigned within their craft will be excessed pursuant to their pay level and their seniority. “Reasonable accommodation” provisions apply.

  • Management must identify the specific residual duty assignment to which the employee will be excessed, including the hours, days of work, and duties of the assignment; the employee must be able to perform the core duties of the assignment.

If the duty assignment is outside the installation and medically suitable work is not available in the craft of the excessed limited-duty employee, management is required to apply the provisions of Section 540 of the Employee & Labor Relations Manual (ELM), the EL-305 Handbook, Injury Compensation, and/or the EL-307 Handbook, Reasonable Accommodation.

Excessing Booklet

If it is determined that such work is not available for a limited-duty employee in the office where the excessed employee is reassigned, the employee should apply for OWCP (Office of Workers’ Compensation).

More information about the rights of employees when they are excessed can be found on the APWU Web site in the pamphlet, “When Excessing Occurs.” [PDF]

For more information on the rights of limited duty/rehab employees when being excessed, visit the Human Relations Department pages of the APWU Web site.

William Burrus

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