|Delivering information when you need it most.
by Laurie Miale
The purpose of having a branch newsletter is to keep members informed of the activities of the local and national union and more importantly to EDUCATE!
It is not a secret that carriers are being disciplined excessively. One of the "hot" issues continues to be discipline for working unauthorized overtime. Many of these cases would be a piece of cake to defend against IF the carrier had protected themselves on a daily basis.
What happens too often is they haven't. Many times a carrier receives a letter of warning with a laundry list of dates where unauthorized overtime is alleged. These dates often go back months. When it comes time to find out what happened on each of these days, the carrier can't remember or the written evidence is not there to document the carrier's compliance with instructions.
The first thing we need to be aware of is the rule management cites in these cases. Section 131.4 of the M-41 states;
131.41 It is your responsibility to verbally inform management when you are of the opinion that you will be unable to case all mail distributed to the route, perform other required duties, and leave on schedule or when you will be unable to complete delivery of all mail.
131.42 Inform management of this well in advance of the scheduled leaving time and not later than immediately following the final receipt of mail. Management will instruct you what to do.
131.43 Complete applicable items on Form 3996, Carrier Auxiliary Control, if overtime or auxiliary assistance is authorized in the office or on the street.
With this in mind you should use this check-off list to keep you mindful of your work requirements.
Rule number one: Fill out your own Auxiliary Carrier Control Form 3996
It is a requirement of our job that we estimate how much time we need to deliver all the mail if we cannot do it within our scheduled time using form 3996. The 3996 is YOUR form. You should state on the form the amount of time you feel is needed to deliver that mail not what management is "allowing" you.
It is very important to have a record of the fact you told management you needed more time than it allotted. Far too often the 3996 appears that the carrier only asked for one hour when the carrier verbally said he or she needed an hour and a half, However, management only gave the carrier an hour. How can we prove that if the original says one hour? It is tough to do.
Rule Number Two: If you don't have authorization to continue working CALL!
What should you do when the boss authorizes less time than you need? First of all, ask the question, "what do you want me to do with the mail? Do you want me to bring it back or continue delivering the mail?"
If you can't get clear instructions from management, ask to see your steward. If you leave for the street without authorization for additional overtime, call management from the street to notify it once again you will not be able to finish on time and ask what it want's you to do with the mail.
If you are told to continue working, do so and complete your deliveries. When you return to the office, amend your 3996 or complete another one documenting who gave your authorization to continue working.
A favorite trick of management is to tell carriers "Just because you called in doesn't mean it is authorized".
That statement is false! A February 18, 1997 Step Three decision signed by Joseph W. Leahy, Jr, Labor Relations Specialist from the Southeast Area Office, and Matthew Rose, NBA states very clearly:
If a carrier notifies management of the inability to complete disposition of assigned duties within his/her scheduled tour and management directs the carrier to complete disposition of the mail, any overtime used cannot possibly be considered unauthorized since management instructed the carrier to continue working. If management verbally informs you that your overtime is unauthorized, you should protest by filing a grievance. Management keeps a log of unauthorized overtime on Form 1017B and one of the entries on this log is the date the employee notified. They should not be recording instances where you called and were told to continue working as unauthorized overtime.
Rule number 3: Make your very best estimate and then stick to it.
Management is famous for using reference volume as the only indicator of how much time you can have. Reference and a linear count (DUVRS) is not an exact indicator of what you may need on any given day. Base your estimate on your knowledge of the amount of time it will take you to case and deliver the type of mail you have on a particular day.
Remember the rule, it is our responsibility to inform management what we need, not management's to inform us.
Rule number 4- If something unexpected happens to delay you document it!
The environment of a letter carrier on the street is not a constant. There are variables to be factored in on any given day; thunderstorms, traffic accidents, loose dogs, Delivery Point Sequencing errors, etc. Any of these can cause you to run over. Keep track of what problems you faced on a given day and notify management of what happened.
Rule number 5- Every carrier should remember these rules
Okay, you might be a great letter carrier. You might not have any problems with management, your bosses love you. You run over a little here and there and it is never an issue.
But one day you commit the ultimate sin, you use PENALTY OVERTIME! Who do you think management loves when it gets the call from the area manager about the hour of penalty overtime that you used without approval?
All this on the day you thought you were doing them the favor by casing two routes and carrying your own with double coverage? All those previous days that were not a problem will quickly be added to the day you sinned and the discipline will be issued.
The discipline will be issued to make sure you are to blame for the penalty overtime, not the supervisor. Will you know what happened all those days? Will you be protected from a charge of working unauthorized overtime? Or will you become yet another demoralized carrier defending themselves against the actions of an ungrateful, self-serving EVA monger?
Laurie Miale is the Secretary of Branch 1071, South Florida Letter
Carriers. She has been a full-time officer of the branch since 1990. Laurie began her career as a letter carrier in 1977. Prior to this position she served her Branch as a Shop Steward for 11 years and an EI Facilitator for 3 years. As an officer of her Branch, she has arbitrated a wide variety of both discipline and contractual cases.