This probably comes as a surprise to just about no one, but an impasse was officially declared today in contract talks between the U.S. Postal Service and two unions: the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. The next step will presumably be mediation or binding arbitration.
The impasse comes two months after prior contracts with both unions officially expired Nov. 20. All sides kept talking after that through two extensions, but could not agree on another extension to keep negotiations alive past today. The parties “currently are discussing how they will proceed,” USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said in a news release. “The existing contracts will be followed until terms of a new contract are resolved.”
The Postal Service is already in arbitration with the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association. Members of its fourth union, the American Postal Workers Union, ratified a new contract last year that will run until May 2015.
No official word on what triggered today’s breakdown, but the Postal Service has made no secret of its desire for cost-cutting concessions, at least some of which labor was bound to resist. In a news release, NALC President Fredric Rolando said it was the Postal Service’s decision to end negotiations. Calling the decision a disappointment, Rolando said the union “will pursue a negotiated agreement through mediation and prepare to vigorously defend our members in interest arbitration, if it reaches that step.”