The USPS and a union that represents 200,000 of its employees has abandoned negotiations for a new contract and, instead, will go to interest arbitration to decide the fate of issues such as payment, dismissal protections and new levels of workers. USPS and the American Postal Workers Union, which represents employees, mechanics, drivers, custodians and others, began negotiations a year ago, but still remain significantly divided over a number of key issues. The two sides recently brought a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, who spent several days listening to each party's arguments before declaring them too separate to help. They will now be bound by the decision of the third referee. APWU said that the postal administration does not demand salary increases from union members, but rather offers a one-time stipend. The agency also seeks to deny adjustments for the cost of living and changes in existing dismissal protections that would require employees with less than six years of experience to wait 15 years for safekeeping, according to the union, while new employees do not They would have protection in all. USPS also proposed to increase the percentage of the workforce working in a non-career state, which means they would receive lower wages and fewer benefits, and create a lower third level of employees. The union said it is struggling to preserve a 50-mile limit on employee relocations.
"Be fully aware that management has presented drastic and regressive contract proposals," APWU President Mark Dimondstein said in a message to its members this week. “They are an insult and a danger to you, the dedicated and hardworking postal employee. We are outraged and have said: "No way!"
The Postal Service declined to comment on the merits of the negotiations, but Doug Tulino, vice president of labor relations, expressed confidence in the agency's positions.
"The Postal Service is prepared to present a strong economic and operational case in the arbitration of interests to justify its negotiation proposals and reach an agreement that is fair to APWU employees and our clients," Tulino said.
APWU adopted a new approach when initiating negotiations, that is, when attempting to place service standards on the negotiating table. The union sought to negotiate on mail standards, personnel levels and how post offices should remain open, among other matters.
Both parties will now make detailed presentations and rebuttals before a three-member interest arbitration panel. USPS and APWU will each appoint a member and mutually agree a third party. If they cannot agree, FMCS will present a list of names and both parties will take turns eliminating options until only one individual remains.
"While we were hoping that mediation would be successful, we have been vigorously preparing for interest arbitration," said Industrial Relations Director Vance Zimmerman, who serves as the main spokesperson during the negotiations. "We are working hard to develop our case and prepare evidence to support our demands."
In 2011, when the Postal Service faced a significant recession in its finances, APWU agreed to concessions that included two years of freezing wages, two years without cost-of-living adjustments, a new level of workers starting with lower wages and He faced a lower limit on his maximum salary, the establishment of a non-professional workforce that paid less and provided fewer benefits, and a change in health premiums to employees. The union refused to make such concessions in its last round of negotiations in 2015, which led to an arbitration of interests also in that year. While that contract expired in September, it remains in effect as both parties move forward with their current deadlock.
The National Mailmen Association, which represents 213,000 postal workers, reached a voluntary agreement with the Postal Service in 2017 to avoid arbitration. The union ratified the agreement with 94 percent of its members voting in favor.