SEAM Challenged in National Arbitration

January 1, 2017

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

As we traveled across the country, we began to hear stories and concerns from our members concerning the new program Solution for Enterprise Asset Management (SEAM), including the obvious shifting of work between the occupational groups and supervisors. We heard the difficulties Vehicle Maintenance Facility (VMF) employees experienced performing the work they previously were able to do in their daily duties.

The MVS Division appeared before Arbitrator Stephen F. Goldberg on October 12 – 13 to challenge SEAM’s application in the VMFs.

The USPS presentation on SEAM included this description; SEAM is an Oracle web-based application designed to improve inventory tracking and visibility in the VMFs. SEAM has many roles in the VMFs. One of the primary functions is to capture data in real time as work is performed and parts are issued. The Postal Service started implementation of the program in February 2012. The APWU was not in agreement with the USPS description or the functions of this program.

The APWU Files Dispute

After the Postal Service began implementing SEAM throughout the country in 2012, the Motor Vehicle Service Division began receiving information from its members in the field that this new program created numerous violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). While the primary complaints from the field were centered on the shifting of work from one occupational group to another, the Postal Service’s failure to provide adequate notice of the impending changes was a violation of the CBA as well.

On May 13, 2013, the APWU initiated a national dispute citing several violations, such as those of Article 7.2. Since occupational groups are part of work assignments and are clearly encompassed in wages, hours and working conditions, they are therefore the subject of mandatory bargaining.

Furthermore, the Postal Service violated Article 19. They stated the SEAM program was implemented to replace the Vehicle Management Accounting System (VMAS), which is part of Handbook PO 701. The SEAM program consequently falls under the provisions of Article 19 of the National CBA, as part of a handbook, and the MVS Craft was never given the appropriate notification required for a change of this nature, nor does it meet the fair, reasonable and equitable standard of Article 19.

The APWU started a series of communications attempting to better understand the SEAM program. Management’s responses were vague and incomplete.

When we were engaged in the 32.1.B attempts to contract out Postal Vehicle Service (PVS), we found that SEAM was being utilized to track various components of PVS. Much of the information concerning the labor cost per hour of both PVS and the VMF employees is being challenged at the national level.

In this dispute we claimed the USPS arbitrarily changed the accounting system that was in place and went to SEAM without notifying or bargaining with the union, because these changes certainly impacted wages, hours and working conditions.

We claimed SEAM shifted work from the general clerk to lead automotive technicians, storekeepers, and supervisors among other jobs impacted by SEAM.

We were assisted by MVS APWU members Valerie Streety from the Houston Area Local, Dave Cook from the St. Paul Area Local, Michael McDonald from the Boston Metro Area Local, and Larry Tynan from the Tampa Area Local.

The Future of SEAM

A USPS manager testified at the arbitration hearing that he envisions SEAM to continue to evolve as the Postal Service moves forward into a technology-based operation. He stated the future applications for this system are far-reaching, as plans include the potential replacement of the kiosk with hand-held tablets.

The APWU is concerned with the USPS implementing numerous changes to SEAM without any notice, discussions or notification to the union. We will address this issue before Arbitrator Goldberg in the SEAM post hearing brief.

The Postal Service envisions instead of the automotive technician or mechanic using a terminal at one of the kiosks to input the work and the parts needed to repair a vehicle, the technician would use a tablet with Wi-Fi capabilities to go around the vehicle as they perform a PMI. The technician would enter the same information into the hand-held tablet as they would onto a work order or at a kiosk.

SEAM is nothing more than a sophisticated program used to reduce MVS administrative positions: the general clerk, the tool and parts clerk, and the storekeeper, further impacting the different occupational groups through a system that is shifting work and violating the CBA.

If the information captured by the SEAM program is corrupt, the information coming out from SEAM is corrupt as well. It is like the old adage, “junk in, junk out.” Ultimately, transparency is the key to determining if SEAM can work correctly within the requirements of the contract.

Merlie Bell Retires, Wright Elected

Merlie Bell 

Central Region Motor Vehicle Division National Business Agent (NBA) Merlie H. Bell retired on Nov. 10, 2016, after 15 years of dedicated service. Bell began his career as a Motor Vehicle Operator at the Chicago, IL, post office and quickly rose through the ranks to become the local MVS Director. He became a fierce fighter for the MVS Craft and a regional arbitration advocate. 

One of his most significant awards for the MVS Craft was the April 20, 1993 decision C0V-4G-C 10706 out of Fort Wayne, IN, before Arbitrator Belshaw. It gave a practical example of bulk quantities of mail.

Bell was elected as an NBA in 2001 when he unseated the incumbent in a landslide victory.

A wonderful family man, Bell is looking forward to spending time with his devoted wife Sharon, his children and grandchildren.

William Wright

The Motor Vehicle Division Council congratulates Bell on a long and successful union career. Keep on trucking.

William Wright was elected MVS Central Region NBA to replace Bell. He is a proud member of the Indianapolis Area Local.

“W.W.,” as he is fondly known, has a long career in the MVS Craft, starting as the local MVS Craft director and also serving as the local president.

Welcome aboard, “W.W.”

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