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September 1998
Vol. 1 No. 12 Page 7

Ghost of "Evaluated Routes" Returns

by Dave Welsh
Piece-work system means lower pay, weakened union work rules

Management loves "evaluated routes," that's for sure, and no surprise there. By paying carriers a fixed amount to case and deliver a route, regardless of how long it takes, they end up paying out less money for more work. They proved that with the bundles of wage money they saved from the rural carriers' "evaluated route" system. Plus, it makes it easier for them to automate and contract out routes later on -- eliminating more of our union jobs.

Fortunately, union leadership turned "thumbs down" on evaluated routes from the podium at the '96 national convention. President Sombrotto: "We will not change the hourly wage. We will not change the way routes are evaluated, which is by individual performance, not standard performance." Vice President Bill Young: "It is NALC policy that pay should be based on hourly wages, not piece-work."

Well, now "evaluated routes" is trying for a comeback, with new advocates on the union side. The April Postal Record contains a branch item championing the idea. And the NALC leadership has signed a Memorandum agreeing "to seek, jointly with management a different way of evaluating and establishing letter carrier routes." [Bill Young, Postal Record 1/98]

What could this "new way" be? And how can it be reconciled with the hourly wage? Let's not play tricks with words. Any system that pays you by the amount of work you do, instead of by the time it takes to do it on any given day, is an "evaluated route" system, not pay by the hour. If management "evaluates" a route at 9 hours, and you get 9 hours' pay every day regardless of whether it takes you 11 hours or 8 hours that's "evaluated routes", not pay by the hour.

This subject has already been thoroughly studied. A Sombrotto appointed task force studied "evaluated" systems used in Canada and by U.S. rural carriers, and issued a 1994 report exposing the glaring defects of evaluated routes. The report concluded that our present system of compensation is the better one.

Since then, the already rotten rural carriers' system has gotten even worse. Rural carriers found that after management route "adjustments" they suffered drastic pay cuts of thousands of dollars a year -- without any route cut on their "evaluated" routes. Same number of stops, much less money.

Management spelled out its game plan in the 1992 Spatola Memorandum, which urged "an evaluated system" for city delivery routes - "a workload based evaluation with 'positive' incentives for the carriers." [In other words, rewarding the runners and punishing professional carriers.] "Our experience," said the Spatola Memo, "...was that the carriers wouldn't mind an additional workload as long as they could do their job and go home when completed with their routes." The memo concluded: "We have ... to decide between a workload-based evaluation with incentives, or initiate efforts to return to an authoritarian approach." It's either the 'carrot' of speedup incentives, accompanied by rosy promises of freedom from supervisor harassment, or the 'stick'!

Many carriers believe management is turning up the heat on carriers, including "delivery redesign" tests and the DPS madness, hoping the union will cry "uncle" and agree to evaluated routes, with the lower pay and weakened work rules that come along with that rotten package. The current system of an hour's pay for an hour of work is at the core of our union contract. Let's not give it up. Better we stick with the union way and say NO to evaluated routes.

Source: Dave Welsh is a former President of NALC Branch No. 214, San Francisco, CA. He wrote this article for the May/June, 1998 issue of the Voice, bi-monthly newsletter, Branch No. 214.

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