APWU Wins 5-Year Contracts at Two MTESCs

March 3, 2006

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Members of the APWU bargaining unit at the privately-operated Mail Transportation Equipment Service Center in suburban Detroit overwhelmingly ratified a five-year contract Feb. 24; the APWU membership at the Pittsburgh MTESC approved a separate and similar agreement on Feb. 28.

Both MTESC facilities are operated by Serco, which purchased Resource Consultants Inc. in March 2005. Two years earlier, RCI and APWU had negotiated the first Detroit MTESC contract, a three-year pact expiring Feb. 28 that covers 125 workers.

Ratified by a vote of 74 to 2, the new Detroit agreement calls for a first-year wage increase of nearly 7 percent for most APWU-represented workers: $1.37 per hour for inspectors, and $1 per hour for all other job categories, including laborers, forklift drivers, mechanics, welders, and yard drivers. The raise to $15.36 an hour for most job categories will take effect Aug. 1, followed by increases of 3 percent in 2007 and 2008, 3.5 percent in 2009, and 4 percent in 2010. (The contract does not provide for cost-of-living adjustments.)

Among the contract highlights are that employee-paid health insurance premiums are likely to be frozen over the next five years because the company will pay all premium increases up to 15 percent annually. Should an increase exceed 15 percent, discussions will be held with the union in an effort to reduce the premiums.

The company will continue to pay the entire premium for "employee only" coverage and a substantial portion of the other coverage options: The new agreement lowers the employee portion of family coverage by $25 per bi-weekly pay period.

Other improvements include an increase from four hours to eight hours in the guaranteed number of hours per shift for full-time employees, additional paid leave, and expanded jury and bereavement-leave coverage.

Detroit District Area Local APWU President Pat Chornoby and NBA Bill Manley led a rank-and-file bargaining team consisting of Serco employees Dana Brown, Donna Davies, Gwen Glover, Sue Humphreys, and Moe West. DDAL Vice President Pat Johnson also took part in the talks.

Pittsburgh Metro Area Local APWU members on Feb. 28 ratified a similar MTESC agreement, a first contract for this 110-member bargaining unit.

“Our differences with the Company regarding base hourly wages for about 100 laborers was our primary economic focus,” PMAL President Chuck Pugar said. “Where the Company would have them paid at $14.75 this August, the Agreement provides $16.90 per hour.” Other job classifications receive similar increases in the first year.

The Pittsburgh agreement, which will go into effect as soon as a seniority issue is resolved, provides that $1 an hour will be rolled into employees' base salary rate immediately. There will be another raise Aug. 1, and subsequent annual increases of 2.8 percent (2007), 3 percent (2008) and 3.2 percent (2009). In the fifth and final year of the agreement, the increase will be determined by a wage reopener, with “baseball-style” (each party submits a last-best final-offer) arbitration in the event of an impasse. 

The contract creates a health and welfare fund from which specified benefits are paid.  The Company will pay $3.10 per work hour into the health and welfare fund, an amount that will be increased 6 percent each year. 

The fund will pay for: the entire health insurance premium for "employee-only" coverage and a significant portion of the other coverage options; the entire premium for life insurance, short- and long-term disability; two new days of paid sick leave; and 60 cents per hour into a 401(k) for full-time employees. Since part-time employees are not eligible for the various insurance programs, they will receive larger 401(k) contributions from the fund.

It is anticipated that health-insurance premium increases of less than 15 percent per year will be covered by yearly increases in company payments to the fund, without any transfer of increased costs to employees. As in Detroit, the APWU and Serco will discuss these costs, meeting at least twice per year to review the status of the fund and to make any necessary adjustments.

In addition, the proposed Pittsburgh contract provides for paid jury and bereavement leave, as well as additional vacation time for senior employees.

Non-economic highlights include: a closed shop, "just cause" discipline, grievance-arbitration procedures, seniority and bidding provisions, work-standard protections, and safety provisions.

The Pittsburgh bargaining committee consisted of Pugar, Secretary-Treasurer Desi Neurohr, and rank-and-file SERCO employees Ella Harris, Jen Salley, and Linda Zagorski.

In 2004, the Postal Service threatened to close these two MTESCs in favor of a proposed new facility in Ohio. After the USPS abandoned the proposed consolidated Ohio center and signed contracts to continue the Detroit and Pittsburgh MTESCs, the workers in Pittsburgh voted to have the APWU local represent them.

Serco has a large number of federal contracts, primarily with the Department of Defense. According to www.serco-na.com, the company’s range of activities include “the day-to-day operation of public services, including transport systems, air traffic control and aeronautical services, scientific establishments, defense facilities, justice and local authority services.”

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