In a ruling dated Sept. 5, Arbitrator Stephen B. Goldberg concluded that jobs in four- and six-hour post offices must be assigned to clerks – not Part-Time Postmasters or Postmaster Reliefs (PMRs). A Sept. 22 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlines procedures for implementing the award.
The ruling and MOU establish a minimum of 3,000 new Level 6 career jobs in six-hour offices and Level 18 offices. Positions in the six-hour offices must be staffed with full-time employees. The ruling and MOU also establish more than 6,000 new Level 6 non-career jobs in four-hour offices, to be filled by Postal Support Employees (PSEs). The union expects thousands of additional new career jobs to be created as the process unfolds.
The Dispute: Where Are Our Jobs?
The dispute arose in 2012, when management unveiled the POStPlan – which reduced the hours of operation at thousands of small post offices around the country from 8 hours to 2, 4 or 6 hours. Very few of the affected offices employed workers represented by the APWU. In more than 13,000 offices, less than 350 jobs were held by clerks; the rest were held by postmasters and other non-bargaining unit employees.
In addition to reducing the hours, the POStPlan changed the organizational structure and the duties of postmasters who worked in the affected offices. Under the POStPlan, management began replacing the postmasters, who no longer had managerial or supervisory responsibilities, with Part-Time Postmasters and Postmaster Reliefs – not clerks.
The APWU filed a grievance challenging the assignment of Part-Time Postmasters and PMRs to staff the POStPlan offices because the union believed it violated management’s commitment, outlined in the 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement, to assign any newly created or revised retail positions that had no managerial or supervisory duties to Clerk Craft employees.
Several days of arbitration hearings were held in May and September 2013, and union officials felt the proceedings went well.
“But I had serious concerns that leaving the process solely to arbitration would lead to years of additional conflict with the Postal Service,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein, “with disagreements over the meaning and implementation of the arbitrator’s ruling leading to additional rounds of arbitration. To break the cycle of unending disputes, we entered into serious settlement talks with management in January 2014 and continued to work for a negotiated settlement.
“Although significant progress was made in our informal negotiations with the Postal Service, in the end we returned to Arbitrator Goldberg to rule on several outstanding issues. The arbitration award he issued and the accompanying implementation memo mean thousands of jobs within 90 days – not years from now,” he said.
Dimondstein praised his union predecessors for laying the groundwork for the positive outcome. “The previous administration filed a solid grievance and presented a strong case in arbitration, which gave us the foundation to engage in productive negotiations with management,” he said. “I appreciate the work of all those who participated, including National Business Agents, local union officers and APWU members who strategized on the case and testified.”
In his ruling, Arbitrator Goldberg denied the APWU’s claim only in the smallest offices (open just two hours per day), where the former postmasters never had any real supervisory duties. In all the other POStPlan offices – those open four and six hours a day – he awarded the positions and work to clerks, assigning full-time career employees to six-hour offices and PSEs to four-hour offices.
Arbitrator Goldberg also ruled on a dispute over the Postal Service’s use of PSEs in Level 18 post offices, directing management to fill positions in those offices with career employees. Noting the Postal Service’s need for cost-savings, he relaxed some of the limits on the use of PSEs in POStPlan offices. He ruled that there is no prohibition on PSEs in four-hour offices working the window.
Arbitrator Goldberg also upheld language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that prohibits supervisors in Level 18 offices from performing more than 15 hours of Clerk Craft work per week. The USPS had asserted that management wasn’t bound by the 15-hour restriction in approximately 4,800 offices that were upgraded to Level 18 offices.
The arbitrator remanded certain issues to the union and management to settle. These matters and several other issues were resolved in the Sept. 22, 2014, MOU.
“This is historic,” said Bob Johnson, the president of the Greater CT Area Local who assisted in the arbitration and the recent negotiations. “We haven’t had APWU members in most of these offices in decades, and now to have to have full-time positions in six-hour offices – that’s phenomenal!”