PVS Pilot Program to Amend Work Rules at Selected Sites

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The USPS and the APWU signed a Memorandum of Understanding [PDF] on Jan. 15, 2009, creating a pilot program that will amend work rules governing Postal Vehicle Service drivers. The pilot program will experiment with alternative scheduling at a limited number of installations, and will continue at each location for a period of six months, unless the union and management at the national level agree to extend the timeframe.

This MOU was established out of necessity: The USPS decision to condense dispatch windows has made it hard to find eight hours of continuous work for drivers. In addition, postal managers have made it clear that they plan to terminate and shut down quite a few PVS operations throughout the country.

Let us review this point by point.

  • The pilot program will be used to determine the feasibility of modifying work rules. 
  • The parties at the national level will decide how many facilities participate in the pilot. 
  • Presently, two sites are under consideration for the pilot program. (One is considered mid-size, and the other is small.) 
  • The real change to work rules concerns drivers’ schedules. Item #3 permits schedules to be extended up to 12 hours to accrue 8 hours of work. All pilot schedules will be agreed upon by the national parties, not local management. 
  • Work may be combined with other crafts to create an 8-hour assignment. These assignments also could be extended to 9, 10, 11, and 12 hours.

The union agreed to the MOU because in virtually all installations there is insufficient work within nine consecutive hours to keep all the drivers gainfully employed. If you need proof, take a look around your PVS operation: You probably will see people on standby or on clock ring 340 (or whatever operation is used to indicate that employees are not performing productive work).

Although we won the arbitration over the elimination of PVS in Tacoma, WA, where management was ordered to reopen the facility, this was an uphill fight. Unfortunately, we probably would not consistently win such grievances.

A significant benefit of the MOU is that no transfers of PVS operations to Highway Contract Routes (“mode conversions”) will occur at the pilot sites. If your PVS operation is scheduled for conversion, the national union will initiate discussions to place your installation in the pilot program. This would bring the conversion to a standstill; if your installation has been identified for mode conversion and does not participate in the pilot program, the conversion to HCR will continue. Please understand that the USPS will not hesitate to close down the PVS operation and excess the drivers.

Some local union MVS directors have said they would rather see the operation contracted out and excessed from the building than participate in the pilot program. The MVS national officers respect that position, but we think that many drivers would rather stay in their homes and deal with an extended workday than uproot their families and try to sell their houses in a depressed housing market.

The decision is up to the individual locals. Locals that do not wish to participate will not be forced to do so; they will go through mode conversion. Be aware, however, that, given the opportunity, the USPS will eliminate all PVS jobs in an installation. Keep in mind that in two successive five-year plans, the USPS cited the elimination of PVSas an important goal. The threat is real and we have already lost a number of PVS operations.

Hopefully, we can convince the USPS to return subcontracted work to PVS. Item #7 of the MOU stipulates that consideration will be given to returning work that has been previously subcontracted in order to determine the efficiencies of combining such work with PVS schedules.

This also will be an uphill struggle, as the USPS has been unwilling to give work to the PVS even when it could be done with existing work hours. In other words, even when no new work hours would be needed (because employees were on standby and were available to do these runs), the USPS has been unwilling to assign the work to postal drivers.

We do not know how successful the pilot will be. We believe problems exist in the structure of our work that the MOU fails to address; however, it obviously deters the Postal Service from contracting out more work.

The bottom line is this: Except for one or two locations, if your local does not choose to participate in the pilot, you will not be forced to do so; be forewarned, however, that the USPS has gone forward with mode conversions that take a massive number of jobs from PVS and completely shuttered PVS operations. We expect management to continue this pattern whenever it has the option.

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