More than eight months after their contract talks hit an impasse, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association and the U.S. Postal Service are headed to arbitration, according to a new USPS financial filing. While mediation would normally be the next move, both sides are interested in bypassing that step and going to straight to arbitration, the third quarter financial report says. The next step will be to select an “interest arbitrator” and decide on some dates for the proceedings.
A Postal Service spokesman had no further information Monday, but in a phone interview that evening, NRLCA President Don Cantriel said the decision to go to arbitration was made a week or so ago. “We just couldn’t accept where they wanted to go,” Cantriel said. While the rural letter carriers had offered concessions similar to what the American Postal Workers Union had accepted earlier this year, he said, the Postal Service then wanted to “completely alter” several of the standards in the evaluated system used to determine carriers’ pay. The effect would be “devastating,” Cantriel said.
“They basically want us to do the same amount of work for significantly less money.”
Under interest arbitration, the arbitrator decides which provisions the parties will have in their collective bargaining agreement, as opposed to interpreting and applying the terms of the agreement to decide a grievance, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
The impasse with the rural carriers dates back to last November, triggered in part by USPS proposals to freeze wages, cut benefits for current career employees and create a lower wage scale for new hires, the union said at the time. Nonetheless, the two sides had kept talking–at least until recently.
Don’t forget, by the way, that contracts with two other postal unions, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers, expire Nov. 20. Talks on replacements will start about 90 days beforehand, the Postal Service has said. This May, APWU members overwhelmingly ratified the new contract that will run until May 2015.
[Post updated at 6:25 p.m. to reflect Cantriel comments.]