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Volume 3, No. 18 - Summer 2000
Page 3

Keeping An Eye On Route Inspections

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Know What's Normal

The first step is to become familiar with the provisions of the handbooks and manuals that address route inspections and mail counts. As noted in Article 19 of the National Agreement, handbooks and manuals relating to wages, hours and working conditions are considered part of the National Agreement. Therefore, language contained in the M-39, Management of Delivery Services, and the M-41, City Delivery Carriers' Duties and Responsibilities is as binding on both parties as anything in the contract itself, and the NALC can file grievances if management violates any provision contained in those manuals.

In general, these handbooks state that processes used in route inspections and to determine mail count should be fair, reasonable and equitable. As each of the cases outlined below illustrates, management in each instance violated this standard. Arbitrators pinpointed these violations and assessed appropriate remedies.

Schedule Changes

Section 221.133 of the M-39 states that management is prohibited from making changes in normal distribution procedures or clerical schedules during the period of mail counts and route inspections. In a recent regional arbitration decision (C20372, Danbury, CT), the arbitrator determined that management had violated this provision by requiring clerks to come in at least one to two hours earlier than normal to sort mail on overtime, thereby artificially reducing the work load for letter carriers.

This schedule change took effect during the period from May 8 to May 14, 1999, when management was conducting route inspections and mail counts throughout the station. As a result of the inspections, routes were changed and at least one carrier lost his bid route and became an unassigned regular carrier. The NALC grieved the route inspection and mail count as being in violation of both Article 19 and Section 221.133 of the M39.

When the grievance was progressed to arbitration, the union representative argued that the clerk's schedule change was in direct violation of language that states, "There should be no changes in normal distribution procedures or clerical schedules during the period of mail counts. The normal cutoff time for distribution should be observed." (Section 221.133, M39).

By calling in clerks two hours earlier to work overtime operating the automated DBCS machines, management was able to substantially reduce the amount of mail delivered to carriers to case. As a result, the NALC representative argued, the mail count and route inspection were flawed and should be disregarded.

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