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Hold-Downs - Opting
The National Agreement provides a special procedure for exercising seniority in filling temporary vacancies in full-time duty assignments. This procedure, called "opting," allows carriers to "hold down" vacant routes of regular carriers who are on leave or otherwise unavailable to work for five or more days. The terms opt and "hold-down" refer to the same procedure and may be used interchangeably. This paper will discuss the opting procedures and policies as established by the National Agreement, arbitration awards, and national level settlements.
Citations to "C" numbers refer to arbitration awards cataloged in NALC's computer system. "M" numbers refers to settlements listed in the Materials Reference System. These decisions may be obtained from NALC's regional offices.
II. Contract Provisions
The opting procedures stem directly from Article 41, Section 2.13 of the National Agreement, which states in part:
3. Full-time reserve letter carriers, and any unassigned full-time letter carriers whose duty assignment has been eliminated in the particular delivery unit, may exercise their preference by use of their seniority for available craft duty assignments of anticipated duration of five (5) days or more in the delivery unit within their bid assignment areas, except where local practice provides for a shorter period.
seniority... for available full-time craft duty assignments of anticipated duration of five (5) days or more in the delivery unit to which they are assigned.
5. A letter carrier who I pursuant to subsections 3 and 4 above, has selected a craft duty assignment by exercise of seniority shall work that duty assignment for its duration.
Questions arising from these provisions fall into several categories. These areas include eligibility for opting, rules for posting of vacancies, the meaning of 'duration" in Section 2.13.5, pay status of employees on hold-downs, applicable schedules, and remedies for improper denials of opting opportunities. Each area is addressed separately below.
A. Employees eligible for opting
Full-time reserves, flexible-schedule regulars, unassigned full-time carriers, and part-time flexible carriers may all opt for hold-down assignments. Although Article 12, Section 3 of the National Agreement provides that "an employee may be designated a successful bidder no more than five (5) times" during the contract period, a national settlement (M-0513) establishes that these restrictions do not apply to the process of opting for vacant assignments. Moreover, opting is not "restricted to employees with the same schedule as the vacant position" (M-0843). Rather, an employee who opts for a hold-down assignment assumes the scheduled hours of the regular carrier whose absence is filled by the hold-down.