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Hold-Downs - Opting,
ED NOTE: This is the second part of a two part series on Hold Downs or Opting as some have come to call it. In the October 1997 issue we closed with the last line: "Full-time employees are guaranteed 40 hours of work per service week (M0531)." The continuance here picks up with that final paragraph.
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). Thus, they may be assigned work on routes held down by part-time employees if management demonstrates that no other sufficient work is available for them on a particular day (M-0097). Bumping is still a last resort, as reflected in a Step 4 settlement (M-0293), which provides that:
A PTF, temporarily assigned to a route under Article 41, Section 2.B. shall work the duty assignment, unless there is no other eight-hour assignment available to which a full-time carrier could be assigned. A regular carrier may be required to work parts or relays" of routes to make up a full-time assignment. Additionally, the route of the "hold-down" to which the PTF opted may be pivoted if there is insufficient work available to provide a full-time carrier with eight hours of work.
VI. PTF PAY STATUS
Although a part-time flexible employee who obtains a hold-down must be allowed to work an assignment for the duration of the vacancy, he or she does not assume the pay status of the regular carrier being replaced. That is, a part-time flexible carrier who assumes the duties of a full-time regular by opting is still paid as a part-time flexible during the hold-down (C-4871 9 C-5399).
PTFs do not receive holiday pay for holidays which fall within the hold-down period. Instead of being eligible for holiday pay, PTFs are paid at a slightly higher hourly rate than full-time employees.
The pay status of PTFs is most important in the area of overtime pay. Part-time flexibles can receive overtime only for working in excess of eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week (C-10710). PTFs do not receive "out-of-schedule overtime' pay (C-4871).
Employees are entitled to remedies if their rights to opt are violated. Remedies to employees are usually money awards, intended to make the aggrieved employee whole by compensating him or her for wages lost due to the violation. If no money award is appropriate, the disputed practices may be prohibited in the future, but employees rarely receive punitive damages in excess of their demonstrated losses. Such punitive damages are awarded in extreme situations where "the terms and intent of a collective bargaining agreement are blatantly, arrogantly, or repetitively violated placing the offended party in a position of having to sue for damages or incurring undue expenses at arbitration" (C-7001).
Where a monetary award is the appropriate remedy, the usual measure of damages 'is not whether grievant was compensated for the hours he worked, ... but rather whether he was improperly deprived of ... work that day' (C-5821). The remedy for unfair denial of scheduled work to a successful hold-down bidder is the employee's regular wage for the hours that he or she should have worked, less the hours that he or she actually worked (C-6142).
The following arbitration awards are among those which held that monetary awards were appropriate remedies for violations of employees' rights to opt:
C-04739 Arbitrator Leventhal
C-05821 Arbitrator Rotenberg
C-06142 Arbitrator Britton
C-W39 Arbitrator Dennis
C-06395 Arbitrator Stephens
C-06904 Arbitrator Jacobowski
C-07001 Arbitrator Scearce
C-10181 Arbitrator Sobel
C-1 0264 Arbitrator Parkinson
C-1 071 0 Arbitrator Taylor
Opting provides letter carriers with a means of exercising their seniority to temporarily obtain desirable full-time assignments when the regular carriers are unavailable to work. In particular, opting provides valuable opportunities for PTFs to secure additional work. The policies for filling and working these hold-down assignments are expressed In local agreements, the National Agreement, national grievance settlements, and a history of arbitration awards. Opting procedures are designed to be efficient and fair, but can also be quite technical. The best way to avoid confusion and potential disputes about opting is to become familiar with the procedures and remain aware of the common problem areas.