(This first appeared in the May/June 2013 edition of The American Postal Worker.)
One of the main priorities of the union is jobs — whether it means stopping management from outsourcing our work, fighting for better hours and days off, negotiating a path to career status for Postal Support Employees or bringing back work that the USPS has contracted out.
The 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement strengthened our protection against subcontracting and we recently won an important victory in a Motor Vehicle Craft arbitration that will help us preserve jobs in all crafts.
We recently launched a new computer program in the Clerk Craft that will help locals track employee work hours to aid the fight for jobs with better schedules, address excessing issues and retreat rights, and identify part-time flexible hours that justify full-time jobs.
But one of the achievements that I am most proud of is the elimination of casuals in all APWU crafts and their replacement with Postal Support Employees (PSEs), who are part of our union.
Many PSEs spent years working as casuals and know first-hand the trials and tribulations of being a casual. But new PSEs may not realize that if they were hired prior to 2011 they would have been hired with much lower pay, no contractual rights, and no union representation. Casuals had no protection against being terminated on a manager’s whim and no procedure for obtaining career status. They were a non-union workforce and were subjected to all the indignities non-union workers suffer.
I am proud to say that is no longer the case.
‘We Want Career Jobs’
PSEs earn considerably more than the casual employees they replaced, and they are guaranteed raises over the life of the current contract. PSEs also earn annual leave and qualify for health insurance after one year.
In addition, PSEs have access to the grievance procedure. And al- though they can be terminated for lack of work, once they pass their probationary period, discharge for any other reason must be for “just cause.” When PSEs are terminated due to a lack of work, dismissals must be implemented by juniority, and rehiring must be based on their craft standing in the installation.
But what PSEs really want is to become full-time career employees — with all the rights and benefits permanent employees enjoy. And this is one of the most important rights we negotiated for PSEs — the opportunity to join the ranks of the career workforce, by seniority, provided they have passed the appropriate entrance exams and are on the appropriate register.
Enforcing PSE Limits to Create Career Jobs
The contract limits the number of PSEs the USPS may hire, and there is evidence that management is exceeding the limits. Ironically, by enforcing restrictions on the use of PSEs, we not only protect career jobs, we improve career opportunities for PSEs. Once we document the fact that management is violating limits on the number of PSEs allowed in various locations and operations, we can demand that the Postal Service create a comparable number of career positions. In accordance with the PSE Career Opportunity provisions of the contract, these career positions must be filled by the conversion of available and qualified PSEs on a seniority basis.
So, enforcing PSE limits doesn’t hurt PSEs, it benefits career employees and PSEs.
In the Clerk Craft, the total number of PSEs used in mail processing within a district may not exceed 20 percent of the total number of career mail processing Clerk Craft employees in the district, except during the Christmas period.
In retail and customer services, the number of PSEs may not exceed 10 percent of the career retail clerks in Level 22-and-above installations whose duties include working the window, and no more than 20 percent of the career retail clerks in Level 21-and-below installations whose duties include working the window.
In the Maintenance and Motor Vehicle Crafts, the total number of PSEs used within a district may not exceed 10 percent of the total number of Maintenance and Motor Vehicle employees, respectively.
Locals Must Be Vigilant
To be successful at increasing career opportunities by enforcing limits on the number of PSEs, locals and state organizations must be vigilant. Locals must monitor USPS compliance with the PSE limits carefully and file grievances when the USPS violates the restrictions.
Article 7.7 of the contract requires the USPS to provide a report every four weeks with information needed to monitor compliance with the PSE limits. (The reports are posted at www.apwu.org, on the Industrial Relations page, under “USPS Reports.”)
Where the record shows that management is violating the cap on an ongoing basis, local grievances should request that management convert an appropriate number of PSEs to career status in accordance with the PSE Career Opportunity provisions of the contract.
PSEs are part of the bargaining unit, and we will continue to fight to improve their wages, hours and working conditions. At the same time, we must protect career jobs and maximize the number of PSEs who are converted to career status, whenever conditions warrant.