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.
In an award dated June 17, 2013, Arbitrator Stephen Goldberg rejected the union’s argument that the USPS was required by Article 12.5.B.2 to cobble together the work hours of PSEs in installations within a 50-mile withholding area in order to create duty assignments to minimize the impact of excessing on career employees. Goldberg concluded, “The sole obligation imposed on the Postal Service by the quoted language of Article 12.5.B.2 is that of identifying and separating those PSEs within the appropriate radius who are holding posted duty assignments, whether they have opted into those duty assignments or have been assigned to them by Postal Service management.” Continue reading →
“The Postal Service is abusing Postal Support Employees in small offices and systematically violating contractual restrictions governing PSEs, Clerk Craft Director Rob Strunk has declared. “And we intend to do something about it.
“Locals and state organizations must take note of these violations and file grievances based on the specific circumstances in their area,” he said.
“We have received reports that district managers have threatened to terminate Level 6 PSEs if they do not ‘voluntarily’ reduce to Level 4 PSEs, so they won’t show up in PSE Compliance Reports,” Strunk said. “This is shameful.
“These unscrupulous deceptions cheat the PSEs of $2.26 for every hour they work,” Strunk said.
“They also mean that the PSEs are not being counted against the number of PSEs that are allowed to work in a given district.”
The parties agree that only Level 6 PSE Window Clerks or Mail Processing Clerks may work in post offices where career clerks are employed. Nonetheless, the March 8 Complement Report [PDF] shows more than 100 post offices where Level 4 PSE Post Office Clerks are employed alongside career clerks, Strunk pointed out. (The PSEs in question have a Designated Activity Code of D/A 81-8.)
PSEs in Level 18-and-above offices who are being paid at the Level 4 rate should contact their steward or state representative to file a grievance if they haven’t already done so. Local and state officers who have questions about how to process these grievances should contact their Clerk Craft National Business Agent.
The 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement also prohibits the use of Postmaster Reliefs (PMRs) in Level 15, 16 and 18 post offices, but the Complement Report shows that as of March 8, 2013, the USPS admits that 3,478 PMRs are working in these offices [PDF]. “PMRs are prohibited from working in these offices,” Strunk reminds local and state officers. “Every hour that they work deprives clerks of work opportunities,” he said.
“Locals and state organization should file grievances if PMRs are working in Level 15, 16 and 18 offices, if they haven’t already done so,” he said.
The APWU and USPS have reached an agreement that clarifies the rights of Postal Support Employees (PSEs) when discipline is issued, Director of Industrial Relations Mike Morris has announced. In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), management has the right to discipline or remove PSEs for “just cause,” and PSEs have the right to file grievances protesting such discipline.
Removal is not the only option for correcting deficient behavior. Prior to agreement, USPS officials contended that removal was the only form of discipline required for PSEs and lesser forms of discipline were not necessary, Morris said. “The settlement makes it clear that the USPS position was without merit.”
Discipline must be corrective in nature. Although the full range of progressive discipline is not always required for PSEs, the agreement stipulates that an appropriate element of just cause is that discipline be corrective in nature, rather than punitive.“Discipline that is corrective must also be progressive. This is an important principle that has been reaffirmed for PSEs,” Morris said.
“Progressive discipline is not always required even for career employees,” he pointed out. “Some misconduct is so egregious that removal can be upheld, even for a first offense. That is no different for a PSE than it is for a career employee.”
PSEs will not be denied work as a substitute for discipline. “Management may not refuse to schedule an employee as a means of punishment for perceived shortcomings,” Morris said. “If postal managers believe a PSE is not performing in a satisfactory manner, they have a clear obligation to attempt to correct the problem in an honest and straightforward manner rather than by using the PSEs work schedule as a disciplinary tool.”
The agreement resolves a national-level dispute (Case # Q10C-4Q-C 13016809) that was initiated by the Postal Service after the union won grievances on PSE discipline at the regional level. Grievances concerning PSE discipline that were held pending resolution of the dispute will be discussed and resolved in accordance with the settlement.