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Volume 3, No. 18 - Summer 2000
Page 4

Keeping An Eye On Route Inspections

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The union also argued that management's selection for the time for the route inspection, mid-May, also violated provisions concerning route inspections and mail counts. Mail in mid-May is traditionally at a low volume; therefore, the union argued, Postal Service management was attempting to obtain the most favorable results by selecting such a time period.

For its part, Postal Service management argued that it has the right to change schedules, as stated in Article 3 of the National Agreement, which deals with management rights. Management stated that its intent in bringing clerks in earlier was to avoid the curtailment of mail, a practice that is also prohibited during route inspections and mail counts. (Section 221.134, M39). And in answer to the union's charge that management scheduled the inspections purposely during a time of low mail volume, the Postal Service representative pointed out that it is management's prerogative to determine the time of such inspections, as long as they are not scheduled in December.

The Arbitrator Rules

After reviewing all language concerning route inspections and mail counts, the arbitrator dismissed the union's argument that the selection of mid-May for inspections had invalidated the results of those inspections. As the arbitrator stated, "In and of itself, the selection of the time for the conduct of an inspection has not been shown to violate any of the several provisions [concerning route inspections and mail counts]."

However, the arbitrator went on to find that by changing the clerks' schedules, management had indeed interfered with the process of obtaining a fair and equitable mail count and inspection. The arbitrator acknowledged management's argument that it was trying to avoid the curtailment of mail. However, the section prohibiting such curtailment specifically refers to accumulation of curtailed mail "on the day preceding the beginning of the count" and "on the last day of the count." (Section 221.134, M-39). As the arbitrator stated, "Clearly this provision was meant to insure that all and only regular mail volume would be considered in a mail count and that there should be no mail held back intentionally or accidentally on the day prior to the commencement of the count {or} on the last day of the count."

The fact that the clerks worked overtime throughout the entire period of the count was evidence enough, the arbitrator ruled, to overturn management's defense of the practice. That this overtime did in fact affect the mail count and route inspections was evident, the arbitrator concluded, noting that at least 10,000 letters were sorted by the clerks working overtime. Although no specific connections could be drawn from this fact to the result that at least one carrier lost his route, the clerks' overtime clearly had an effect on the route inspection.

Therefore the arbitrator declared the mail count and route inspection of May 8-14, 1999 to be null and void. All adjustments made as a result of that count and inspection were voided.

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