The U.S. Postal Service and its largest union have made it official, tying the knot on a contract that will run until May 2015.
“We worked together to negotiate a responsible agreement that is in the best interest of our customers, our employees and the future of the Postal Service,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a statement noting that the agreement with the American Postal Workers Union took effect Monday. The APWU’s membership overwhelmingly ratified the agreement in a vote announced May 11.
“I am pleased that we were able to negotiate a contract that will strengthen the Postal Service for the future and protect the job security of union members,” APWU President Cliff Guffey said in his own statement.
The lengthy contract contains provisions allowing both sides to claim gains. But its most notable feature is the creation of a two-tier wage structure that, according to the Postal Service, will mean an average of 10.2 percent less money for new hires.
Historically, unions have been leery of these kinds of arrangements because they risk driving a wedge between older and younger members. But with the Postal Service in undeniably awful financial shape, it’s easier to push the pain off on to people who aren’t even part of the bargaining unit yet. And the Postal Service may not want to stop there, Donahoe suggested at a congressional hearing last week.
The mail carrier is still negotiating with the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association to replace a contract that formally expired last November; agreements with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers are up for renewal this November.
“We expect to see the same type of framework in those contracts that we’ve been able to negotiate with the APWU,” Donahoe said. Asked later if Donahoe sees a similar wage fork as part of that framework, USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said only that “we’re looking into negotiating contracts that are in the best interests of our customers, our employees and the future flexibility of the Postal Service.”