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Hold-Downs - Opting
The National Agreement says that once an available hold-down position is awarded, the opting employee "shall work that duty assignment for its duration' (Article 41, Section 2.13.5). Within this category are questions involving hold-down carriers who voluntarily leave or are involuntarily removed from their hold-down assignments before the duration of the vacancy has run.
A. Defining "duration"
One important issue is the meaning of "duration" as used in Section 2.13.5. Generally, "duration for remaining on an instation bid will be as long as the position remains unfilled unless the instation bid itself places a definite time limit" (C-7489). Thus, a holddown typically ends upon the return of the incumbent carrier. If no end date is specified and a vacancy lasts longer than anticipated, the opting employee retains his or her right to work the assignment (See C-7001). An opt is not necessarily ended by the end of a service week (C-9539).
B. Voluntary leave and reassignment
There are situations in which carriers temporarily vacate hold-down positions for which they have opted. Such an employee may reclaim and continue a hold-down upon returning to duty (M-0748). If the opting employee's absence is expected to include at least five days of work, then the vacancy qualifies as a new hold-down within the original hold-down. Such openings are filled as regular hold-downs, such that the first opting carrier resumes his or her holddown upon returning to duty-- until the regular carrier returns.
An opting employee may also bid for and obtain a new, permanent full-time assignment during a holddown. A national settlement (M-0669) established that such an employee must be reassigned to the new assignment. If there are five or more days of work remaining in the hold-down, then the remainder of the hold-down becomes available to be filled by another opting carrier. Detail to a temporary supervisory position is considered a voluntary reassignment that ends an employee's rights to a hold-down. For example, suppose an employee opts for a position which he or she voluntarily vacates to assume supervisory 204(B) responsibilities. Once the vacancy is awarded as a hold-down to
another employee, the original holddown cannot be reclaimed by the 204(B) upon returning to craft duties (C-9187).
C. Involuntary reassignment
The duration provision in the National Agreement generally prevents the involuntary removal of employees occupying continuing hold-down positions.
National Arbitrator Bernstein (C-6461) held that an employee may not be involuntarily removed from (or denied) a hold-down assignment in order to prevent his or her accrual of overtime pay (See 'Eligibility,' above). For example, suppose an employee who worked eight hours on a Saturday then began a 40-hour Monday-through-Friday holddown assignment. Such an employee may not be removed from the hold-down even though he or she would receive overtime pay for the service week.
Opting employees are also protected against permanent reassignment. Article 41, Section 1.A.7 of the National Agreement states that unassigned full-time regular carriers may be assigned to vacant full-time duty assignments for which there are no bidders. However, National Arbitrator Mittenthal ruled that an unassigned regular may not be involuntary removed from a hold-down to fill a full-time vacancy-(C-4484). Thus, the right to remain on a hold-down 'for Its duration" is '"unconditional." Of course, management may decide to reassign an employee to a new permanent assignment pursuant to Article 41, Section 1.A.7 at any time, but the employee may not be required to work the new assignment until the hold-down ends.
Mittenthal's reasoning was later adopted by a regional arbitrator to prevent the early removal of part-time flexibles. "To involuntarily reassign an employee while on hold-down would, in effect, nullity the intent of Article 41, Section 2.13.5.... Involuntary assignments of PTFs obviously can be made by the Postal Service, but such assignments must be made by using PTFs who are not on hold-down positions (C-1 0264).
There is an exception to this rule against involuntarily removing opting employees from their hold-downs. Part-time employees may be "bumped"" from their hold-downs to provide sufficient work for full-time employees. Full-time employees are guaranteed 40 hours of work per service week (M0531).