APWU Web News Article 123-2013, Nov. 1, 2013
In a decision issued Oct. 28 [PDF], Arbitrator Stephen B. Goldberg ruled that the USPS must upgrade all Customer Care Agents two levels and must make them whole for all pay and benefits they lost as a result of the improper ranking of their positions.
“This is a tremendous victory for the APWU and for all the Customer Care Agents,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey.
More than 1,100 employees hired at three Customer Care Centers pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Clerk Craft Jobs will be upgraded from Level 4, 5 and 6 to Level 6, 7 and 8. ”This was a 100% victory,” said Clerk Craft Director Rob Strunk.
To implement the MOU, the USPS established Call Centers in Troy MI, Los Angeles CA and Edison NJ, andcreated three Clerk Craft positions at the centers: Customer Care Agent, Tier 1; Customer Care Agent, Tier 2, and Customer Care Agent, Lead.
The Postal Service initially informed the union that the positions would be ranked Level 6, Level 7 and Level 8, respectively, based on the requirements of Section 233.2 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM). Section 233.2 outlines the criteria for ranking positions based on a comparison of duties, responsibilities and work requirements to existing USPS positions.
The Postal Service subsequently reversed course and took the position that because there was no exact match to any existing positions, management would rank the new positions based on a comparison with wages paid in the private sector for comparable work.
The Postal Service argued that the Postal Reorganization Act required management to rank these positions by comparing them to wages paid in the private sector. The USPS also asserted that the intent of the 2010-2015 contract was to in-source work only when postal employees could perform the work more cheaply than workers in the private sector.
The arbitrator rejected the Postal Service’s arguments. It was not the intent of the Postal Reorganization Act that each new position be ranked based on a comparison to private sector wages, he said. Furthermore, the Clerk Craft Jobs Memorandum of Understanding, which required management to insource 1,100 call center jobs, contained no requirement that the work be performed in-house only if doing so was cheaper than contracting out the work.
The Memorandum of Understanding on Contracting and Insourcing of Contract Services, which requires the USPS to in-source work when a fair comparison shows postal employees can perform the work less expensively, “was not the Union’s only successful effort in the 2010 Agreement to obtain additional positions for bargaining unit employees,” he said. The Maintenance Craft, Motor Vehicle Craft and the Clerk Craft all negotiated for the return of outsourced work without such a requirement, he noted.
Arbitrator Goldberg directed the Postal Service to place all Customer Care Agents in the higher grades and make them whole for lost pay and benefits resulting from their improper position ranking.