|Delivering information when you need it most.
by Brian Farris
Many of the problems commonly experienced by letter carriers have their origin in the fact that their routes are overburdened. Fortunately, the requisite contractual provisions are in place to insure the right to a special route inspection in such situations. The M-39 Handbook, which is incorporated into the National Agreement by Article 19, requires that a special route inspection be given whenever a carrier requests one and it is warranted. M-39 section 271 states specifically:
271g. If over any six consecutive week periods (when work performance is otherwise satisfactory) a route shows over 30 minutes of help or auxiliary assistance on each of three days or more in each week during this period, the regular carrier assigned to such a route shall, upon request, receive a special mail count and inspection within four weeks of the request. The month of December must be excluded from consideration when determining a six consecutive week period. However, if a period of overtime and/or auxiliary assistance begins in November, and continues into January, then January is considered to be a consecutive period even though December is omitted. A new consecutive week period is not begun.
271h. Mail shall not be curtailed for the sole purpose of avoiding the need for special mail count and inspections (date: October 22, 1984, incorporated into December 24, 1984 award).
Arbitrators have unanimously understood M-39 section 271 to be non-discretionary. When the union can prove that the criteria in section 271 have been met, carriers have an absolute right to a special count and inspection. This is true even in cases where the regular carrier has been absent for part of the six-week period. The provisions of section 271 refer to the route and not the carrier on the route, despite the fact that the purpose of any such inspection is to adjust the route to the individual carrier. Moreover, once a carrier requests a special route inspection and demonstrates that it is warranted, the Postal Service cannot evade or obviate the requirement to conduct the inspection by unilaterally providing relief, or making an adjustment.
When special route inspections are conducted pursuant to the provisions of M-39 section 271, they must be conducted in exactly the same manner as regular count and inspections. It is important to be clear that special route inspections are not unit and route reviews. The right to a special route inspection is unaffected by the fact that the office involved may be undergoing, or be scheduled for, a unit and route review.
to conduct special route inspections when they were required to do so by the terms of the M-39.
Awards by Arbitrators Edward Pribble (C05545) and Harry Grossman (C-06722) are of particular interest. Both arbitrators agreed with the union that contract violations should, when possible, be remedied. They reasoned that since the grievants were required to work overtime they should not have worked, no possible future remedy could return that time to them. Since merely instructing the Postal Service not to breach the agreement in the future would not, in their view, have been sufficient to make the grievants whole, they both granted monetary remedies.
The two arbitrators did not, however, agree upon the exact form of monetary remedy that was appropriate for such violations. Arbitrator Pribble ordered the Postal Service to pay the grievants "one extra hour's pay at their regular rates of pay for each and every day that each grievant has worked overtime." Arbitrator Grossman, in contrast, ordered the Postal Service to pay "one hour's pay at his regular rate of pay for each and every hour that he was required to work in excess of eight and one-half hours. "
There appears, as of now, to be more agreement that some monetary remedy is due in such cases, than there is upon the exact form any such monetary remedies should take. All too often, the union has been able to convince an arbitrator that the terms of the contract have been breached, only to have the arbitrator find that the particular remedy requested is beyond his authority to grant, or otherwise inappropriate to remedy the specific violation. It is therefore advisable that all remedy requests include the catch-all phrase "or that the grievant be made otherwise whole."
Failure to make standards, or the inability to finish the route in the allotted time has never, in itself, been grounds for discipline. However, letter carriers with overburdened routes should be aware that once they have requested a special route inspection, they are afforded even additional protection. Regional Arbitrator Levak (C-05952) recently held that once a route qualifies for a special inspection and the regular carrier requests one, any discipline for expansion of street time "is inappropriate unless and until such an inspection is conducted."
In M-39 section 271 we have an enforceable mechanism to assure adjustment of routes to eight hours. Where conditions warrant, we should use it.
ED: Brian Farris is a former Director of City Delivery. This article was taken from the archives of Summit City Branch No. 116, Fort Wayne, IN. It was published in the March, 1987 Postal Record, monthly publication of the NALC, page 37.