APWU: USPS Renews Attack on Custodial Work

Steve Raymer
Maintenance Division Director

(This article by first appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

apwulogoThe Maintenance Division officers wish our members a happy and prosperous 2013. For those who accepted the retirement incentive, we hope your decision proves to be a wise one and that you enjoy many years as a retiree.

Although the labor movement celebrated many election victories in November, we are locked in a fierce struggle with the USPS. Unfortunately, we see no change in the Postal Service’s attacks on our work.

The Postal Service continues, with renewed vigor, an assault on custodial work and our jobs. The APWU received notification in December 2011 that the USPS is “reconsidering the efficacy of its Housekeeping processes… In hopes of obtaining best-in-class performance, the Postal Service is soliciting proposals from consultants.”

At the end of May 2012, the Postal Service informed us that the USPS had selected a contractor, ManageMen. The company’s marketing materials say it provides “a comprehensive range of technical expertise to associations, in-house and outsourced cleaning organizations.”

Exploring Changes

During discussions between the APWU and the Postal Service, we learned that management is exploring ways to change the manner in which custodians perform their work, including cleaning methods and the type of equipment used. This also could include a change in how work is assigned.

We will continue to meet with the Postal Service as the study proceeds, and we have requested additional information from management. So far, however, the USPS has failed to share documentation with us.

Despite expressing lofty intentions, our history with management demonstrates that the Postal Service is interested in just one thing: the bottom line. That means cutting hours, cutting costs, cutting employees, and doing more with less.

It’s not overly cynical to suggest that if the only result of the contract with ManageMen is a cleaner post office, then management will scrap the idea. Of course, the Postal Service could use this initiative to deal forthrightly and honestly with us, but wait, pinch me, I must be dreaming.

A New Standard?

We are beginning to believe management’s new approach may constitute an attempt to implement a “work and time standard.” The USPS has not informed the APWU of such plans, despite the fact that Article 34 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement requires management to notify the union when it plans to establish work standards. The Postal Service has also failed to provide the union notice of any change to the MS-47 Housekeeping handbook, which is required in accordance with Article 19.

But when you hear a consistent “quacking” sound, eventually, you begin to believe there may be a duck nearby.

Be Vigilant

Throughout this period, please be vigilant about performing your duties in a safe and effective manner. Local managers may attempt to try new methods, asserting they learned about them through the Postal Service’s contract with ManageMen. As of this writing, however, the union has not agreed to any changes related to custodial work.

We will continue to keep you informed with articles on the APWU website and updates through National Business Agents to locals.

As always, please notify us of any information you become aware of from local management.

We still hope that at some point, the Postal Service will realize that the Maintenance Division is comprised of employees who are professionals in their fields and are equal to — if not better than — any workers to whom they can subcontract our work.