Despite an ugly financial backdrop, the U.S. Postal Service kicked off talks this afternoon on a new contract with the largest of its four unions with an official note of optimism.
“We have worked successfully with our unions in the past to help transform the Postal Service and we hope to maintain this momentum during these negotiations,” said Anthony Vegliante, USPS’s chief human resources officer, in a news release marking the start of negotiations with the American Postal Workers Union, which represents some 211.000 clerks, mechanics, custodians and other workers.
That chin-up attitude was matched in a separate statement by APWU President William Burrus. “The history of the Postal Service is replete with forecasts of doom and gloom,” Burrus said, “but such dire predictions have not prevented us from exploring every opportunity to achieve agreement.”
The APWU’s existing four-year contract expires at midnight Nov. 20. Wednesday’s bargaining began with a brief session at the Hyatt Regency hotel on Capitol Hill, according to a union spokesman who was uncertain of the future schedule. Negotiations between the Postal Service and its third-largest union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, are set to begin Sept. 13. The NRLCA’s contract also expires Nov. 20. Contracts with the USPS’s other two unions expire next year.
The Postal Service, grappling with a continuing falloff in mail use, lost $3.5 billion in the three-month period from April to June, according to its latest quarterly report and is asking Congress to defer the bulk of of a $5.5 billion payment into its retiree health fund due at the end of this month.