Arbitration Victory Creates Full-Time Assignments

March 1, 2017

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(This article first appeared in the March-April 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

By Clerk Craft Directors

The Clerk Craft was successful in a recent arbitration regarding the USPS’s handling of the Sales Retention Team (SRT) program. The Postal Service blatantly violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in utilizing injured employees, mostly carriers, to staff the Sales Retention Teams, without first posting the jobs for bid in the Clerk Craft.

Currently, there are roughly 400 SRT jobs that are utilized to retain existing business customers. They are in 12 sites, performing Clerk Craft work during preferred hours and days off. The USPS has clear obligations to assign the work to the Clerk Craft under Article 1.5 and to post the jobs for bid per Article 37.3.A.1.

The arbitrator ordered the USPS to “(1) cease and desist from the violations of the National Agreement found in this case; (2) assign SRT positions to Clerk Craft employees; [and] (3) post SRT work assignments for bid by clerks without delay.” The arbitrator also ordered the parties to meet and discuss the financial aspect of the remedy, which we are currently doing as this issue goes to press.

Many thanks go to APWU Clerk Craft witnesses Linda Moss from the Dallas Area Local and Lorinda Miller from the 480-481 Local, who testified on the nature of SRT and call center work. Also, thanks to Assistant Clerk Craft Director Lamont Brooks, for carefully setting the case up for success from the beginning.

Improving Lives with Full-Time Career Jobs

Returning administrative and technical work from management, the conversion of Postal Support Employees (PSE) to career positions and increasing the hours for Part-Time Flexibles (PTF) as well as employees in Non-Traditional Full-Time (NTFT) duty assignments is a high priority for the APWU. It is difficult to live on part-time wages and retiring on part-time wages is practically impossible.

As our most vulnerable sisters and brothers, PSEs have significantly lower wages, lack of job security and no retirement benefits. Not surprisingly, PSEs had a turnover rate in Fiscal Year 2016 of 36.2 percent. For comparison, the turnover rate for career employees was about 1 percent.

The APWU encourages and works for the conversion of PSEs to career as soon as possible in order to bring significant salary and benefit improvements to these workers and their families. Negotiated provisions allowing conversions to residual vacancies play a major role in converting many PSEs to career status.

In addition to filling vacancies, members can also push for the creation of new and/or more desired duty assignments. Many locals and state organizations have been successful utilizing Article 37.3.A.1, which considers “all available work hours,” to create new full-time jobs and get the jobs posted. This gives more opportunities to employees in NTFT duty assignments to bid, PTFs to secure full-time jobs and PSEs to be converted to career.

Utilizing MDAT to Create Full-Time Jobs

However, there is much room for improvement. Absent other provisions (like Article 37.3.A.1), the 2010 CBA allowed the USPS to use 20 percent PSEs per district in the Clerk Craft. Although aggressive use of Article 37.3.A.1 in a few districts pushed the PSE percentages below 15 percent, most districts are near 20 percent.

The USPS’s own charts showed approximately 38 percent of PSEs were averaging over 40 hours per week, which indicates many duty assignments can be created.

The Max Duty Assignment Tool (MDAT), which utilizes the Postal Service’s own data, significantly helps create duty assignments per Article 37.3.A.1. It is important that grievances demonstrate the number of 40 hour a week jobs available without tying the duty assignments to particular time frames.

It is also essential that the best cases go forward, with National Business Agents (NBAs) handling the cases so we can establish a positive precedence in arbitration. This makes it easier to settle cases in the future without going to arbitration. NBAs are encouraged to discuss well documented grievances with the National Clerk Craft officers for consideration of placement at the top of the arbitration docket.  

By working together to create more full-time career duty assignments, we can significantly improve the lives of our fellow workers who are currently PSEs, PTFs or in NTFT duty assignments. Creating more full-time duty assignments improves staffing levels, which also improves the working conditions for all employees and improves services to the American public.

Staples Kicked Out!

The APWU victory over management’s attempt to increase privatization of the Postal Service through the transfer of work to Staples is significant and historic. Here are a few points to consider:

  • The fight to stop job loss is important for existing workers. A conversion process for Postal Support Employees (PSEs) to become career would become meaningless without good career jobs to be converted to.
  • The USPS-stated goal is to transfer Postal Service work to private interests. The victory over Staples slows down their plans.
  • The fight against Staples, even before the final victory was won, discouraged other corporations from attempting to take postal services away from the American public.

Perhaps most importantly, the victory over Staples shows that a small, dedicated and organized group of people can take on a large corporation and win significant changes for the APWU and the good of the country.

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