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Arbitrator: MOU Requires Union Agreement When Exceptions to PSE Wage Rates are Needed

APWU Web News Article 090-2013, Aug. 2 , 2013

In a victory for the APWU, Arbitrator Stephen Goldberg issued an award [PDF] on July 25 that will help protect our members’ interests if the Postal Service proposes to increase hourly rates for Postal Support Employees (PSEs) when it is necessary to do so to recruit or retain them.

The Memorandum of Understanding Re: Postal Support Employees contains the following sentence:

Should it be necessary for recruitment or retention of PSEs, the Postal Service may pay higher hourly rates, with the concurrence of the Union.

The parties negotiated the language because the union believed that PSE rates might be too low to attract and retain employees for skilled positions, especially those in the Motor Vehicle Service Craft.

At the hearing, the Postal Service contended that this sentence precluded the union from conditioning its concurrence on issues other than the amount of the hourly rate proposed by the USPS.

The union asserted that the APWU has a right to decline to concur on a proposed exception to PSE wage rates and is free to propose other demands as a condition to concurrence.

Arbitrator Stephen Goldberg rejected the Postal Service’s position and ruled that the APWU’s authority to concur — or not — with a USPS proposal to increase PSE wage rates may be conditioned on “matters reasonably related to the Postal Service’s proposal, including, but not limited to, the amount of the proposed increase.”  Goldberg remanded the matter to the parties for discussion of an appropriate remedy.

The decision makes it possible for the union to address circumstances where the Postal Service has set hourly rates of some more recently-hired PSEs higher than rates of previously-hired PSEs with greater seniority as well as where salary rates of certain PSEs are higher than the starting rate for new career employees in the same classifications.