The union won a major arbitration victory on March 29, when Arbitrator Shyam Das issued a long-awaited decision that will affect Clerk Craft jobs in small post offices. The ruling settles a long-simmering dispute about the amount of bargaining unit work postmasters and supervisors may perform in Level 18-and-below offices.
“This decision will mean more hours for the clerks who work in small offices and more Clerk Craft jobs,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey.
Arbitrator Das upheld the union’s position, ruling that an agreement between the union and management sets absolute limits on the number of hours postmasters may perform bargaining unit work (BUW) in small offices. A “Global Settlement” that was included in the 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement, says postmasters may perform up to 15 hours of bargaining unit work in Level 18 post offices and up to 25 hours in Level 15 and Level 16 offices.
During bargaining, when the agreement was struck, the APWU proposed language stipulating that, “All time the supervisor or Postmaster spends staffing the window during the day will be counted towards the permissible BUW limits.” The USPS agreed.
The union clearly stated during negotiations that if the window is open for business, it is being staffed. If the person staffing the window is a postmaster, all time the window is open must count against the limits, regardless of other tasks the postmaster performs during that time.
After agreeing to the language in negotiations, the USPS took the position at headquarters, in the field and at the arbitration hearing that what management intended was not “all time” staffing the window but rather “earned time” or “actual time” working the window, as reported by the postmasters and supervisors themselves. “All time spent staffing the window” didn’t mean what it said, management asserted.
The arbitrator rejected management’s arguments, ruling that “All time the supervisor or Postmaster spends staffing the window . . . applies to all time the supervisor or postmaster is covering the window, which, in the absence of a clerk, includes all time the window is open.”
“This is a major win for the APWU and especially for clerks who work in small offices where postmasters have been improperly taking work from our members for years,” said Industrial Relations Director Mike Morris. “The task ahead is to enforce the agreement. We will leave no stone unturned to make sure that happens.”
President Guffey praised the ruling. “We want to thank the officers and members who supported the union through this protracted fight,” he said. “Many union officers and staffers assisted in researching, preparing and presenting this case. They did an outstanding job.”
Another disputed section of the Global Settlement dealt with offices that were downgraded under the Delivery Unit Optimization (DUO) program after Nov. 21, 2010. The arbitrator ruled that the APWU agreed to an exception for offices without a clerk that are downgraded to Level 13 or-below offices. “This very narrow exception should not work to the detriment of any bargaining unit employees, because it only applies to offices that have no clerks,” Morris said.
“This award sets the table for our challenge to POStPlan, which was another full frontal attack on our union and especially on clerks in small offices,” he said. A hearing on that dispute is scheduled before Arbitrator Stephen B. Goldberg on April 16 and 17.
“The POStPlan is next,” Morris said. “Stay tuned.”