|Delivering information when you need it most.||December 1997, Vol. 1 No. 3|
A Rural Response To A Rural Writer
by Pam Waschbusch
October 30, 1997
This Letter-to-the-Editor was one sent in response to Cynda Watroba's article in the November 1997 issue of Contract & Conflicts. That particular article, although not written as item to provoke our brothers and sisters in the Rural craft, it did. In all fairness to Cynda, there was a mix up in the articles she sent me for publication, and as it turned out I forwarded the wrong one to be published. Not to dwell on the issue, I believe the message was still the same, but not presented as well as she had written it for publication.
I am a rural carrier and am on line so read what you read. The writer of the posting you quote forgets to tell you the route he is struggling with is probably 63 + hours a week of evaluation (that's for six days) and willingly only gets 48 hours of pay for a five day week to keep the built in overtime.
The evaluated system was never intended to have hours over 57 hours for a 6 day week (48 hours for 5 days) and that route was subject to immediate adjustment. With automation the decision was made to let carriers carry their own buffer so there would be minimum salary loss when DPS was counted the first time. Little did we know the "95 in 95" was a pipe dream when we signed the MOU in 1990. Our carriers hung on tenaciously to their routes even with astronomical growth and delays in automation implementation. As a result, the evaluated system looks nothing like it did back in the 80's, and as such does not function as intended.
As a steward in California it became obvious that these carriers were learning to live on these salaries and when the time came to go back to the original contract language, the loss in pay would be profound. The craft tried to get managers at the district levels to agree to adjust back to 46K (54:36 to 55:47 hours for a 6 day week). In most we were successful and it has been easier to convince these people who are literally working themselves to death that they can let go of those 60 hour routes. At the national level it is back to 44-45K. A route that is 46K is not subject to being classed as overburdened and will allowed to stay at that level. DPS will see the route drop in all likelihood, but there will be buffer in the office from the territory taken off of overburdened routes and they can be rebuilt if they desire. More often than not the carrier will chose not to rebuild if it is only an hour or so, because more pay means more work and they don't want the work. They learn to live on less and get a life back.
I have to stay the whole 8 hours and 50 minutes of my evaluation and on the really bad ones, maybe 10 hours. I leave a clean route for the next day. In the summer I get the route done in 6 to 7 hours a day.
I understand why my fellow rural carriers insist on maintaining a route that sees them work for free every day they work over 9-1/2 hours and incur injury for the privilege. They have become accustomed to a salary that was never intended to be. What I don't understand is how these same people can say the evaluated system does not work. They are outside the bounds of the system and have made the choice to be there.
I appreciate your hesitation or unwillingness to change to the evaluated system . But I see my office city carriers sitting under trees or in alleys on light mail days not wanting to get back early for extra work or swings, or told to take annual for the time left in the day. I see my office city carriers on heavy days arguing with management on how much mail has to be cut to keep an 8 hour day. I see tension that is not necessary for me and am delighted to be a rural carrier. I go home when I finish, which is normally well under the time I am getting paid, and stay on that occasional day I wasn't able to step it up a notch to go into that time when I am not getting paid. The evaluated route is not piece work. I am paid for an average day as determined by the route count and management has no ability to increase or decrease my day's wage. They cannot give me more work from someone else's route either. We have flaws - granted, but when done properly, it works well.
I feel the city craft would be better off being involved in the system they will eventually get versus having it forced on them. The frustration I feel most is getting management to abide by our agreement and hold up their end on the bargain at the office level. So, as a steward my job is to hold their feet to the fire and make them give us the product we are being compensated to carry as DPS. My frustration is that a lot of our carriers could care less if it is good mail and won't see to it the corrections are made.
I ramble, but have been reading your postings since July and have gotten to know you from your writings. You make sense and want to protect what is negotiated contractually. I came from a management family and found the Union's biggest task was simply to keep management from abridging that contract. I have been immersed since in an independent union that I respect totally and feel I have made an impact for all.
P.S. Want to talk about the one-bundle system?
Pam is the Senior State Assistant State Steward, California, National Rural Letters Carriers Association. She has been a rural carrier since 1971, and has served in a variety of NRLCA offices since 1984.