Using the JCIM to Settle Disputes

March 1, 2021

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

Finalizing all the documentation around a contract is a long process. For the 2018-2021 contract, the APWU and the USPS first had to agree on the production of the written contract. This included agreeing to the finest details like the color of the cover, the font, and to use the cliché, making sure that every “i” was dotted and “t” was crossed.

It does not end there. Next was finalizing the Joint Contract Interpretation Manual (JCIM). This past December, the text of the JCIM was finalized and printed. I want to thank all of the national officers who helped update the new version.

Each state and local president was sent complimentary copies for their local. Additional copies can be purchased from the APWU store. You can also download a copy of the bookmarked JCIM and other important documents from this page: frequently-used-resources.

The JCIM is the manual that should be used by both parties when attempting to settle disputes, whether in the grievance process or before it becomes necessary to file a grievance. The JCIM addresses various contract subjects. Not all contract issues are addressed; rather it is a collection of agreed-upon interpretations that have been made over decades of collective bargaining. Whether those interpretations have been made by simple discussion and agreement, interpreted by a national arbitrator in arbitration proceedings, agreed upon in memoranda of understanding or through dispute settlements, the JCIM is the final word on issues printed in the booklet for all levels of the grievance process.

The purpose of the JCIM is stated at the beginning of the manual:

When a dispute arises, the parties should first go to the JCIM to determine if the issue in disputes is addressed. If it is, the parties are required to resolve the dispute in accordance with this manual. If the parties effectively use and consult the JCIM, many disputes can be settled early on in the grievance/arbitration process.

Some of the changes that were made in the 2020 version of the JCIM include the following:

  • Language updated in Article 8 to reflect PSE overtime application in accordance with the Workforce Benefits Fund settlement.
  • Language added on the citing of previous discipline issued prior to a career conversion.
  • In Article 26 – added items to the authorized Uniform and Work Clothes Programs and updated PSE uniform allowance.
  • In Article 37, updated Mutual Exchange language as well as multiple questions and answers.
  • In Article 38, multiple sections were updated, including the Filling of Maintenance Vacancies pecking order.
  • In Article 39, added new language in multiple sections and updated Question No. 23 on retreat rights.

These are just a few of the updates. All of the updates are listed at the beginning of the JCIM in the “Summary of Changes” table on pages I-IV.

Article 16 Changes

One change that is of particular note was the change to Article 16. Article 16 covers the procedure the USPS must follow when disciplining an employee. The Postal Service had taken a position in the field that when a PSE was converted to career status that any previous discipline followed them. Management was citing discipline PSEs had been issued as being “progressive” for removals that newly converted career employees were subsequently issued. Throughout the country, local stewards and officers had argued that this discipline should not follow PSEs into career status. Many of these cases went to arbitration where arbitrators were ruling that citing this previous discipline was improper. With rulings mounting against them, the Postal Service agreed to put language in the JCIM that PSE discipline would not follow new career employees.

If not for the hard work of our front-line stewards, officers, NBAs, and arbitration advocates this change may not have been added to the JCIM.


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