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All They Want To Do Is Cut Our Pay
On November 18, 1996 Joesph J. Mahon, Vice President, Labor Relations, USPS, wrote a letter to President Vincent R. Sombrotto, NALC, concerning the NALC's attitude towards future changes in the Postal Service. I wrote this article for The Summit City Mailbag, Summit City Branch No. 116, Fort Wayne, IN monthly publication, January, 1997 issue.
My point then and still is to this day - the United States Postal Service has no intentions of allowing us (the craft employees) an opportunity to help control our destiny.
You will find an article in this issue written by Joseph J. Mahon, Vice President Labor Relations, United States Postal Service, that literally rips into every argument the National Association of Letter Carriers has against any changes dealing with the delivery of the US mail. Most of these arguments are fast becoming centered around Delivery Redesign.
Mr. Mahon is critical of articles and letters written by National President Vincent R. Sombrotto that address compelling issues which the Postal Service are ignoring. He does this with such a confidence you could possibly begin to wonder if he isn't correct. His attack on the NALC and President Sombrotto leaves one asking what is going on. He is pointing a finger and he makes no bones about where it is being pointed.
To begin he addresses the issue of the NALC claiming the Service is not allowing the union to participate in the way routes are restructured. Currently the Service is testing Delivery Redesign in several cities. Mr. Mahon says the union has been "invited" to participate and provide input into any type of Redesign for the last nine years.
"Yet for all those nine years you have resisted any attempt on our part to even discuss a different way of looking at the delivery function which would change the way we structure carrier work and compensate city letter carriers."
Mr. Mahon draws much of his background information from those letters, but he manages to go deeper when he relies on the last failed contract talks. He claims it was the Postal Service that approached the union with the idea of changing the way letter carriers do their jobs and how they are compensated; not the union.
"Then, when the Postal Service pursued the concept of evaluated compensation systems during 1994 negotiations, you agreed to test the concept after negotiations, but you have resisted even discussing the concept since that time."
Keep in mind that key to any Postal Service route restructuring is wages. The Postal Service wants to reduce the potential for wages to be the "central focus". To do this the Service suggests replacing the current COLA formula with a process that links wages through ECI (Employment Cost Index), which "directly measures the cost to the employer of increases in wages and benefits in the private sector". Using this formula would in effect "freeze" current wages until the private sector catches up with, and possibly surpasses postal wages.
Because the Postal Service failed in its attempt to implement the ECI formula, it is approaching wage restraint via Delivery Redesign. This process, as it was defined early on, would all but eliminate
the payment of overtime for hours worked over eight hours. Any overtime to be paid would come only after 40 hours.
Management argued that its use of "its employees is severely limited by current contractual requirements, including various restrictions on the use of non-career employees." Should this plan be made reality, and it could through Delivery Redesign, it would give us more Transitional Employees and casuals.
The National Agreement restricts casuals to no more than two 90-day terms in a calendar year. The Postal Service says this constrains its use of these employees. Management wanted to increase the 90 limit to 359 days. This would do two things get rid of the need for the "higher" paid TE's and eventually eliminate the need for Part Time Flexibles (PTFs).
"Casual employees are useful to help the Postal Service meet seasonal or unexpected volume swings, as well as to provide coverage during extensive vacation periods."
When it comes to restructuring city routes the union is a willing, ready, and able organization prepared to meet the needs of the future of the Postal Service. Unlike what Mr. Mahon intimates in his letter to Brother Sombrotto, the Postal Service is only interested in one thing -- cutting letter carrier wages.
There is no real set way to go about reducing wages, but management believes this will save the Postal Service. It has even gone so far as to announce that all craft employees are overpaid to the tune of 30 percent. Simply by saying this, Postmaster General Marvin Runyon is working to drive a wedge between the employees and field-level management. Adding fuel to this fire, the Postal Service paid out a record $169 million in bonuses to over 63,000 management personnel for a "job well-done."
With all of this aside what Mr. Mahon fails to realize is that each and every day letter carriers witness the end product of his instructions. And, the handling of those instructions is a reflection of the current management structure we have today.
Mr. Mahon writes that with or without the union the Postal Service is going to proceed with its plan of implementing Delivery Redesign. By making this claim he is trying to assert that the NALC is the culprit in any possible dispute between the parties.
Quite the contrary it is his attitude reflected in his subordinates that causes our national officers to react.
The union is a defensive mechanism designed to protect the welfare of the membership. One of it's many purposes is to defend against bad management. If the Postal Service didn't suffer from bad management the union would hypothetically become the sleeping dog.
Thom Green is a member of NALC Branch 116 - Fort Wayne, IN. He has been a letter carrier and employee of the US Postal Service for 25 years (October 16, 1972). Thom is a 25 year union member and has been a steward for 20 of those years (off and on). Thom has also been editor of The Summit City Mailbag for 9 years. For the last four years he has served as an NALC DPS Training Coordinator. Thom is also the Editor of Contracts & Conflicts.