How the Support Services Division is Adapting to COVID-19

Steve Brooks

May 20, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

We are living in unprecedented times. As essential workers in this country, postal workers are responsible for continuing to process and deliver letters, documents, and packages to the people of this nation.

It is more imperative than ever that we take extra precautions for the safety of ourselves and others. It is critical that we push management to take the proper steps to provide us with the safest environment possible. Employees have the right to come to a workplace that they feel safe in.

I am proud of the work that the APWU has done, at every level, to push management to do the right thing for postal employees. Several Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) have been developed to ensure that the Postal Service provides a safe work environment for every employee.

The Support Services Division negotiated and signed several MOUs in attempts to properly deal with the COVID-19 situation.

For employees in the Information Technology and Accounting Services (IT/AS) group, the Postal Service has provided proper equipment for employees to work from home, if their job duties can be done by that method. Many IT/AS employees, based on their duties and responsibilities, must remain in the facility daily.

The goal here was to get as many people out of the building as possible. This process freed up more space in the building so that those that need to stay at the facility can exercise the recommended social distancing of six feet of separation. I was pleased at the speed in which the Postal Service and members worked to get this feat accomplished once the MOU was signed.

We were also able to come to agreement on allowing the IT Service Desk and the Customer Service Desk workers at the Material Distribution Center (MDC) in Topeka, KS the opportunity to perform their duties at home. As you can imagine, our Service Desks have been inundated with calls for assistance due to the network connectivity changes involved with working from home.

For our newest group, the members from the Human Resources Shared Service Center (HRSSC), we developed an MOU for work from home for many of the duties performed at that facility. For those deemed necessary to remain in the building, the Postal Service has split the employees into two different shifts in order to better comply with the six feet of separation recommendations.

In our private-sector unit, we worked with the companies to ensure that they are taking all of the necessary precautions and steps to provide the employees with a safe and healthy work environment. Each truck is to be provided a spray bottle of proper sanitizer and wipes so that the trucks can be wiped down before and after a driver enters the vehicle. Areas in the terminal are to be cleaned regularly and hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks are to be available for use.

I am especially proud of the efforts our postal nurses are making in this situation. They are on the front line and critical to the testing, diagnosis, and information communication process.

The Postal Service does not have adequate staffing of nurses to accomplish the tasks that need to be done regarding the COVID-19 requirements. We have agreed to allow the Postal Service to solicit requests for help from postal employees that have the proper nurse licensing but currently work in other positions. The Postal Service has also reached out to retired nurses attempting to contract their services.

I am saddened by the number of members that have tested positive for this virus and devastated by the number of deaths that have occurred. My heart goes out to all of the families who have suffered from this pandemic. Please remember that your union family, both locally and nationally, is there for you and fighting for your rights to a safe and healthy work environment.

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