Contract Mediation Ends, Interest Arbitration Next

July 25, 2019

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(This article first appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

“We invoked mediation to make sure we pursued every avenue to reach a good contract for the membership,” said President Mark Dimondstein. “Despite our best efforts, it did not result in an agreement.”

In a June 3 conference call, the APWU National Executive Council (NEC) was briefed on mediation and the negotiation process by President Dimondstein (lead negotiator) and Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman (chief spokesperson) and the NEC was provided the opportunity to question and comment.

Mediation began with the appointment of a mediator by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). The mediator met privately with the APWU 2018 Negotiation Committee, including the Industrial Relations Director, Executive Vice President, and Secretary-Treasurer and the Clerk, Maintenance, and MVS Directors. Assistant Craft Directors were also invited to attend. Officers unable to attend in person could join by phone.

The mediator followed this meeting with day-long sessions with the chief spokespersons of both the Postal Service and APWU. Clerk and Maintenance Craft Directors, and Assistant Directors, also met separately in day-long sessions with their Postal Service counterparts and the mediator.

After a series of these meetings, the mediator saw no movement toward an agreement and suggested further meetings, at this time, would not bear fruit. This ended mediation.

Arbitration Panel

Following mediation, the law requires an interest arbitration where a panel of arbitrators will determine the terms – wages, benefits, and work rules – of our next collective bargaining agreement.

“While we were hopeful that mediation would be successful, we have been vigorously preparing for interest arbitration,” said Director Vance Zimmerman. “We are working hard to develop our case and preparing evidence to support our demands.”

There will be a tri-partite panel of arbitrators: an APWU appointed arbitrator, an USPS appointed arbitrator, and a “neutral” arbitrator who will chair the panel. The party arbitrators are not neutral, but advocates for their side.

APWU and USPS already made their arbitrator appointments to the panel. Discussions on selection of the neutral chair continue. Failing mutual agreement on the neutral chair, the chair will be selected by alternate striking of names from a list provided by FMCS.

Once the chair is selected, we will schedule hearing dates. We anticipate the need for at least 15 hearing dates. Scheduling difficulties with the arbitrators, lawyers, and expert witnesses may result in the dates spread over two or three months. The 2016 interest arbitration took 18 hearing dates spread over three months. After the final evidentiary hearing, it took another ten weeks to get the award.

APWU is working to start the arbitration soon and get a decision before the end of the year. Interest arbitration is a time-consuming process, but the time is necessary to fight for the contract we deserve.

During the arbitration process we are free to continue talking with the Postal Service. If something breaks the current impasse, we can still reach a voluntary agreement subject to the ratification of members.

Check for the latest interest arbitration news and what you can do to join the fight for a good contract.

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