August 11, 2011 â€“ NALC President Fredric V. Rolando has issued a statement to denounce Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s latest "radical" legislative proposals:
Today, city letter carriers across the country received a mandatory stand-up talk from supervisors as part of a concerted campaign by top postal management to convince Congress to slash postal employeesâ€™ health and pension benefits and override lay-off protection provisions in the postal unionsâ€™ contracts.
Just days before we formally open collective bargaining negotiations, the Postal Service has sent a clear message: It intends to use the financial crisis caused by the deep recession and the crushing congressional pre-funding mandates to strip postal employees of our bargaining rights.
Although we are prepared to seriously bargain over any proposal, we will resist this blatant attempt to subvert and circumvent collective bargaining.
In addition to the stand-up talk, the Postal Service issued a press release to the media and distributed two â€œwhite papersâ€ to congressional decision-makers. One paper, "Postal Service Health Benefits and Pension Programs," asks Congress to allow the USPS to set up its own health plan and pension plans outside the FEHBP and FERS/CSRS systems for all other federal employees. The other paper, "Workforce Optimization," takes the extraordinary step of asking Congress to void the lay-off protection provisions of the various postal labor contracts.
Although the stand-up talk claimed that the postal unions had been â€œbriefed,â€ the reality is quite different. The USPS developed their plans without any discussion or negotiation with NALC or any of the other unions. Not surprisingly, the health and pension proposals would dramatically cut employee benefits below those earned by other federal employees. Let me be clear: We would never agree to any benefit plan unilaterally designed by postal management.
I issued the following statement to the press:
The issues of lay-off protection and health benefits are specifically covered by our contract. Each of them has historically been covered in collective bargaining between NALC and USPS. The Congress of the United States does not engage in contract negotiations with unions and we do not believe they are about to do so.
Of course, pension benefits for federal employees, including postal employees, are set by law. But rather than advocating pie-in-the-sky proposals, we believe USPS and Congress should focus on pending legislation (H.R. 1351) that would allow the USPS to recover massive surpluses in its CSRS and FERS pension accounts. Under the bill, which has 181 co-sponsors from both parties, the surpluses would be used to cover the unfair burden of pre-funding future retiree health benefitsâ€”a burden that no other company or agency bears and which accounts for 100 percent of the Postal Service’s losses over the past four years.
Contract negotiations for NALC open Thursday, August 18.
USPS is free to bring these issues to the table. If they do so, we will bargain in good faith.
These new legislative proposals constitute a transparent attempt to gut our benefits and reduce our bargaining rights without negotiations. Indeed, the USPS admits in the two white papers that if these radical proposals were to be put before an impartial interest arbitrator, the USPS would not likely prevail. Itâ€™s time for postal management to negotiate; the time for unilateral legislative end-runs is over.