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Volume 3, No. 18 - Summer 2000
Page 5

Keeping An Eye On Route Inspections


The Evil Stopwatch

Another recent regional arbitration case (C-17815, Largo, FL) also supported the NALC's right to grieve a single action of management as being a violation of the provisions concerning route inspections and mail counts. This case also reveals the importance of having an alert NALC steward monitoring all aspects of such inspections.

Route inspections were scheduled at the post office in this case for the period May 7 through May 13, 1994. As this process began, the NALC shop steward walked by the desk temporarily assigned to the route examiner and noticed a stopwatch on the desk. The steward asked the examiner why a stopwatch was being used. The examiner took the question to the inspection team leader, who stated that stopwatches were used to time carriers casing mail to determine how efficient those carriers were.

The shop steward then filed a grievance stating that nowhere in the provisions concerning route inspections was there a requirement for the use of stopwatches, and further, the use of a stopwatch is intimidating to carriers. The grievance also stated that stopwatches are not required for route inspections because all relevant forms contain blanks to enter the starting and ending time for each operation. Therefore stopwatches are irrelevant. The grievance proceeded to arbitration, at which time the NALC representative presented these arguments to the arbitrator.

The Postal Service representative argued that because there is no language forbidding the use of stopwatches, management is free to use them. Also, route inspections in the past have been conducted using stopwatches.

Arbitrator Analysis

Interestingly, the arbitrator did not address the issue of intimidation, but rather restricted himself to a thorough discussion of the paperwork on which times are to be recorded during route inspections. Every form requires that the examiner enter the time a task was begun and the time it was ended, i.e. "Space is provided for entering starting and ending time of all actual time entries." Because all of these forms require "actual time entries" as opposed to "cumulative time entries," the arbitrator saw the use of a stopwatch as totally unnecessary. For that reason, even though the arbitrator admitted that there was no language specifically prohibiting stopwatches, the arbitrator determined that using a stopwatch was in fact in violation of the provisions concerning route inspections.

The arbitrator's award, therefore, was that "management was to cease and desist the utilization of stopwatches in all future route inspections" at the post office in question.

Finally, in a series of decisions rendered January 18, 1994 (C-13389 A- D), Regional Arbitrator F. Jay Taylor made clear that persistent and repeated violations of the overtime provisions of the National Agreement would trigger the imposition of "monetary damages." In the first of these four awards (C-13389 A), Arbitrator Taylor upheld the grievance that a carrier had been wrongfully forced to work overtime, but did not award the remedy that the union requested, an additional eight hours, pay. However, Arbitrator Taylor issued a "cease and desist" order to call management's attention to the provisions of the contract that it had violated, and stated that any further violation of those provisions could reasonably lead to another arbitrator assessing a monetary remedy. (The other three cases dealt with different kinds of overtime grievances, including one in which a carrier on the ODL grieved not being awarded overtime. In that case the artbitrator ruled that the carrier should be paid the overtime to which he was justified.)

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