Arbitrators to decide terms of three postal union contracts


Now that the U.S. Postal Service and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union are officially arbitration-bound, it seems time for an overview of the state of USPS labor negotiations that will affect both the mail carrier’s bottom line, not to mention the incomes and working conditions of tens of thousands of postal workers.

More than a year has passed since members of the American Postal Workers Union ratified a new contract that will run through 2015. But the Postal Service has yet to sew up agreements with its other three bargaining units.

Its last contract with the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, for example, expired in November 2010; after the two sides couldn’t reach a successor deal, arbitration hearings wound up in April. NRLCA members are now waiting to hear the outcome from the three-member panel headed by neutral arbitrator Jack Clarke.

Contracts with the mail handlers union and the National Association of Letter Carriers both played out last November. After a failed bid at mediation earlier this year, the NALC announced a few weeks ago that Shyam Das will  chair the arbitration panel, with discussions under way to set a hearing schedule that could last several months. Last but not least, the mail handlers union announced last week that it’s also headed to arbitration after mediation also proved unsuccessful.

Both labor and management tend to be tight-lipped about the exact issues that lead to hangups in contract talks. There’s little doubt, however, that this round has been particularly arduous, as the Postal Service seeks to win cost-saving concessions.  The terms of last year’s APWU contract, for example, were such that the union’s immediate past president, William Burrus, opposed ratification.

In a posting on its web site last week, the mail handlers union suggested that one factor in the failure of mediation in its case was Congress’ slowness in acting on legislation “to support the long-term financial well-being of the Postal Service as an ongoing institution and government agency.”  In addition, “the status of the bargaining agreements for our three sister postal unions clearly could have an effect on what is already an exceedingly complicated process regarding the NPMHU-USPS contract dispute.”


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  1. If the USPS/Unions/OPM could agree to waive the MRA for FERS employees to retire early and still draw the FERS supplement there would be people leaving by the tens of thousands. This way if you are 50 yrs old with 20 yrs service, or any age with 25 years service you could afford to retire without having to wait until 56-57 yrs old to get the supplement. Without the FERS supplement it is hardly affordable to retire.

  2. selfish of me, but at this point i hope the incompetents in congress and the incompetents known as ‘donahoe and
    company’ keep up the charade they have been playing for the
    last 5 years and make no significant buyout offers until i get
    my 20 years in next june. the obvious solution to the manufactured ‘postal crisis’ is to stop the prefunding healthcare madness and reduce employee headcount with a substancial buyout/retirement offer that appeals to more than those who are retiring anyhow. but, when you have the morally and mentally bankrupt individuals we currently have running the post office and acting as congressman trying to figure out their next move or what the outcome may be is just
    impossible to say.

  3. Don’t expect a carrier buyout. The aggravation alone will thin out the senior ranks. In my office (02451) 7 out of approx. 53 have retired in the last year. I even took the under 62 age penalty.

  4. postalgramma on

    Tony, you are so right! But I think Issa has proposed doing away with the FERS supplement entirely. There should be a petition drive or movement to impeach his ass and also Donahue’s. Surely somebody out there will publish the dirt on both these arrogant bastards and make them back off. Too bad this is an election year; our future is in gridlock.

  5. Cliff Goofey on

    APWU holds up VER for members, would rather see them excessed to other crafts and basically end their careers, sad day, the end of the line for the USPS, instead of RIF, they now discipline craft employees for anything, missing a scan, one sick day, damn the USPS, and damn the Congress for not doing a damn thing!

  6. Cliff Goofey on
    Ask your U.S. representative to:
    Tell the APWU and Cliff Guffey to work with the USPS
    on the Voluntary Early Retirement (VER),
    that should be offered to all APWU members,
    and the incentives that are negotiated by the Union,
    as they were with our beloved President,
    Bill Burrus, maybe he can give Goofey some advice!
    Call the Capitol switchboard
    at 202-225-3121 or click here
    to send a message online.

  7. MiserableOldFart on

    I thank God every day that I am retired from that nightmare, and curse the likes of Issa and co. who are intent on destroying the postal service because they believe the employees get too much. Scum like Issa getting five times what a 20 year letter carrier gets for busting butt hauling mail, whilst sitting on his ass in an air conditioned office with a staff at his beck and call to do his dirty work. There is no end to the hypocrisy of the filth “leaders” of the Amerikan right – a cancer on our society and a painful cyst on the rectum of the human species.

  8. Nothing more than a scapegoat strategy by USPS executives to evade accountability at the expense of the postal unions. Issa devoured PMG Donahoe over the negotiated agreement with the APWU rambling about “giving-in” to the Big Bad Unions. Instead of coming to the realization that Issa is abusing his role as Oversight Chairman in one of his delusional crusades, Donahoe actually started to eventually agree with “practically everything” Issa thinks is better for the Postal Service. Issa’s House bill will practically hijack the executive leadership of USPS and obviously Donahoe is okay with that. But of course Issa’s real trophy is to abolish collective bargaining rights between postal management and its labor unions.

    Mr. Donahoe: Show leadership and VER YOURSELF NOW!


  9. I just don’t know how you people think you are entitled to extra benefits on the early outs. You have not earned that extra benefit but you want the usps to give it to you. what have you ever given the usps free that you were not paid very well to do.
    Everyone of you should look yourselves in the eye and say what did I do to help save the usps or what did I do with my greed to help kill the usps. Sure management was and is not the greatest, but neither are current workers.

  10. Anna Armbrust on

    “Giving in to the Big Bad Unions”?! Not hardly! I am APWU. What we have should not even be called a contract! We made way too many concessions to USPS. I only wish APWU would have fought as hard on our contract as the other 3 unions are instead of running scared in fear of what Congress is going to do! Just like management does whatever they want to do, Congress will do the same- with or without a contract! Kudos to the other 3 unions for fighting the fight!

  11. These are not extra benifits we are going to get them when we hit our mra all they are saying is start them early so we can get our full retirement the last vera they offered me was for 975 dollars a month till I hit my mra then i would get the supplement its not an extra benefit but part of my retirement

  12. Response to tom: Unless you work within the post office, you have no idea of the changes,wastes,decisions that have been made over the years.1) The post office became self supporting(no tax payer’s money) in early 1970’s through self revenue(stamps,packages,express mail, etc). 2)The post office hired FERS EMPLOYEES in 1984 and civil service ended employement. 3) Congress and postal board are limited to new income it can create 4)The leased buildings for 99 years are left empty or small sub lease to compensate is wasted money. 5) The anthrax letters caused the post office to buy expensive equipment that is not used. 6) The wages and benefits are lower than UPS full time employees. 7) The postal executives and secretaries get bonuses even in bad economic times. 8) The overfunded health care program is required to fund 5.5 billion dollars per year for 10 years. It’s funding employees not even born yet.There’s enough in fund to cover more than 50 years now. No other private or gov’t required to do the same. 9)The foresite of first class mail decreasing had post office buy too many expensive flat sorting machines which they can’t use fully due to less mail volume.(bad management decision)10) The unions are in contract talks and are willing to pay more in health costs , have new pay structure for new hires and earn lower sick and personal leave benefits per pay period.11) So unless you walk the walk, don’t talk the talk. Respectfully Mark C.

  13. tom ppl like u always mention the money and benefits postal workers make…thats why its one of the last GOOD jobs in the us…but when u think im overpaid i wish u could come do my job for a day, thats when the whimpering starts

  14. I know raises are a big issue. but be thankyou you have a job right now.. ANTI LABOR movement is out to move jobs to a WaLMART status.
    Do not let your UNION or USPS MGMT move you out of THE FEDERAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEM.

  15. it’s been at least five years, there was a grievence filed against the postal service for understaffing,but of course the union don’t tell you whats going on or where they are, but don’t get me wrong, i am very blessed to be working forty hours but right is right, and stop hiring stewards that don’t know anything about the contracts, and have a bad communication with people, especially union paying employees.

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