Mail Processing Equipment Arbitration

Idowu Balogun

July 9, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

The Maintenance National Officers arbitrated a section of Electronic Work Hours Estimated Program (eWHEP) on May 18-19, before a newly selected National Arbitrator, Margo Newman. The union framed our primary issue as:

Did the Postal Service at the HQ Level violate the CBA when the they unilaterally changed the process in which the number of operational tours for mail processing equipment is entered into eMARS (Electronic Maintenance Activity Reporting System) by local management for staffing purposes?

Background: The total overall amount of annual staffing hours allotted for operational maintenance in eWHEP staffing packages are controlled by (1) the quantity and type/model of all mail processing equipment within the installation, and (2) the staffing/ preventive maintenance MMOs (Maintenance Management Order) for that particular type/model of mail processing equipment and (3) the number of tours of operation (and days of operation) that mail processing equipment is entered as being in use.

Before 2018, as required by the CBA and several accompanying MMOs, the responsibility of entering the number of tours of operation for mail processing equipment properly fell under the purview of local maintenance management. This was based on local fact circumstance and firsthand knowledge of operations and maintenance needs within their installation. Local maintenance managers were required to manually enter the number of Tours (1, 2, or 3) in a field next to each piece of mail processing equipment contained in the eMARS inventory within the installation. Since each installation is open for 24 hours a day, local maintenance managers would always choose three tours. The issue affects every plant and distribution center in the country. It first became known to the APWU in January 2018 when the Central New York Area Local was provided a copy of the then-current, approved eWHEP staffing package and immediately observed that it identified an inexplicable reduction of maintenance craft duty assignments.

APWU Position: It is the union’s position that the Postal Service violated the CBA, including but not limited to Articles 5, 15, and 19 when it unilaterally implemented this formula/software change and automated process, and that this unilateral change has adversely affected wages, hours and working conditions. Specifically, it has reduced the number of maintenance craft duty assignments authorized in eWHEP staffing packages. This in turn resulted in the reversion of maintenance craft duty assignments and the involuntary reassignment of maintenance craft employees across the country.

At no point in time was the National notified or furnished any information regarding the unilateral implementation of this change. Indeed, when the APWU questioned USPS HQ, Director Balogun was told no changes were made. This is a fatal flaw.

Additionally, it is the position of the union that the Postal Service’s unilateral creation and implementation of a formula/software change that auto-populates the number of tours mail processing equipment is in operation, by design, violates Article 19 insomuch as it bypasses local maintenance management from the process of exercising their authority to determine staffing needs based on local fact circumstance and firsthand knowledge of operations.

It is also the position of the union that each eWHEP MMO contains controlling language that states: “Local Management, with Area Maintenance concurrence, can adjust work hour allowances provided in the eWHEP program in response to local conditions. For mail processing equipment, adjustments can be based on factors such as: number, age, general condition of the machines; the usage by mail processing operations; the maintenance window’s length and, the variety of non-standard processing equipment.”

As a remedy, the union requests that the Postal Service return to the practice of allowing the manual entry of the number total number of tours in eWHEP in accordance with the CBA and accompanying MMOs, as was the case before 2018, and to make the bargaining unit whole for any staffing hours affected by the automatic population of tours.

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