|Delivering information when you need it most.||November 1997, Vol. 1 No. 2|
by Thom Green
What would you do if you came to work one morning and while reading the most recent route bid sheet you find your route posted? You wonder what is going on, you read further and find your neighbor's routes on both sides of you listed as well. There's more, as you search that posting you find out that all of the routes in your office are posted for bid.
"What's going on?" you ask. "How is this possible?"
Just suppose that for the last six months the National Association of Letter Carriers and the United States Postal Service have been talking about realigning city routes nationwide, but you were too busy to pay attention. If it wasn't the golf league after work, then it was usually bowling or fishing or that part-time job. You just never paid attention. You couldn't be bothered.
As far fetched as this might seem it easily could happen. But how? you ask.
Brother Jim Edgemon, NALC Director of City Delivery, said that the NALC has begun negotiations with the Postal Service to begin talks that would lead to a different route structure. One that we don't see in place today.
"We have to look hard at where we are going. We have to look at each issue to determine what is best for the carrier and the Postal Service," he said while speaking to more than 420 members at the Kentucky-Indiana-Michigan (K-I-M) Region Fall Training Seminar, October 13, in Louisville, KY.
He indicated the future route structure might be a variety of routes with fixed times, such as an 8 hour route, a 9 hour route or a 10 hour route.
Referring back to the discussion that took place at the Orlando, FL Convention last August, he said that President Vincent Sombrotto was required (by instructions from the membership) to meet with management concerning the development of an evaluated system.
The National President said he wanted to protect the individual carrier. He did not want a "one size" fits all route.
"You recall that he wanted to protect the individual carrier. He wanted to protect the carrier who wanted to work only 8 hours," brother Edgemon asked as he recalled the discussion from the last NALC convention.
There were several things that he commented on that were the NALC's position. One of those was an evaluated system, and the NALC presented a proposal to the Postal Service that would consider a test of different route structures.
"We had a proposed change to the National Agreement submitted to the Postal Service where we wanted to test 8 hour routes, 9 hour routes and 10 hour routes."
This setup would allow those carriers who wanted to go home in 8 hours could and those who wanted to work 9 or 10 hours would do so. The routes would be built around the overtime desires of carriers and would be bid on according to seniority. To reach this level, it would be necessary to re-post every route.
"You know when we talk about overtime in the Postal Service the pendulum kinda swings it appears. There are times when it seems like everybody wants to work overtime, and there are times when nobody wants to work overtime.
"But it seems we have had so much overtime that they have had a hard time taking it away when the need no longer existed," he explained.
He said that it recognizes that maybe there should be some overtime built in for those carriers. So they have agreed to this test along the 8 hour, 9 hour and 10 hour suggestion. This is to be a joint effort, and the plans have not been finalized.
For years the Postal Service has pursued the NALC to promote a system of delivery similiar to the rural carriers. The largest single cost in the operation of the Postal Service right now is the delivery costs.
Brother Edgemon went on to say that our work force today consists of 55 to 58% letter carriers who have 10 years of service or less. They are carriers who in those 10 years have not gone without a pay raise, who have never been laid off, who have received yearly Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs).
"Most letter carriers, many at least, have taken their jobs for granted. There has never been a change during those years, so why should I expect a change," he inquired.
The Oregon native said that one of the things President Sombrotto has decided on is we have to look at ways the letter carriers performs their duties in the future.
"And if we stoned walled we absolutely don't agree to anything, one of these days we are going to go to arbitration and lose. Prehaps it's going to be something we can't live with," he said.
Looking at that possibility the idea of a joint study is to have input into the ways letter carriers will do their jobs in the future. The Postal Service has agreed, and the two groups are in the process of preparing a test of this or a similar type system.
Brother Edgemon said President Sombrotto made a statement to the officers that "I can share with you. I concur with it.
"The Postal Service will change in the future. Whether we change with the Postal Service or because they do it unilaterally there will be some change in the future."
He continued, "New advances of technology demand that the Postal Service change. We would have to be very naive with our head in the sand to say that the way we carried mail 50 years ago will be the way we carry mail 50 years from now."
President Sombrotto said he will be calling upon from people from the field, NALC people with delivery route experience to prepare for the test. The Director noted there are problems that have not been addressed at this time, but are under consideration.
Of the many issues addressed the overtime was the primary factor. Any carriers who had a 10 hour assignment could throw off the hours if he or she didn't want to deliver it on a particular day. There would no longer be any daily preference of "today I want to work overtime, tomorrow I don't." You will stay on the route you bid on until another route is available and your seniority allows you to bid off the current assignment.
Thom is a member of NALC