May 1, 2014 – (This article appears in the May-June 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
By Steve Raymer, Maintenance Division Director
On March 20, 2014, President Mark Dimondstein signed a memorandum of understanding with the USPS on Filling Residual Vacancies. The title sounds innocuous enough, but the agreement is an extremely important step forward for APWU members.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) deals with the large number of residual duty assignments that became available once the Postal Service announced that excessing due to plant consolidations was “on hold.” Residual vacancies are duty assignments that remain vacant after completion of a bidding cycle.
Rather than filling the residual vacancies, the Postal Service had been “withholding” them – keeping them open to serve as landing spots for employees impacted by plant consolidations. Many of the residual duty assignments had been withheld for two years and some had been withheld even longer.
The MOU also deals with another crucial issue: career opportunities for our brothers and sisters who are Postal Support Employees (PSEs). While negotiating the agreement, President Dimondstein made sure that all APWU crafts were included. Regarding the Maintenance Craft, the MOU states:
In the Maintenance Craft, duty assignments will be filled in accordance with Articles 38.3, 38.4, 38.5, and the Order for Filling Vacant Maintenance Positions found at pages 280-281 of the JCIM [Joint Contract Interpretation Manual]. After applying item 7.a (Maintenance Transfers) of the Order for Filling Vacant Maintenance Positions, at that point, custodial duty assignment(s) shall be filled by offering conversion to PSE custodian(s). The parties will address procedures concerning PSE conversion in a separate MOU.
The section referenced above requires that Maintenance Craft PSEs receive the opportunity for conversion to career prior to accepting transfers of career employees from other crafts.
The entire Maintenance Division Council supports this concept. We recognize that PSEs in Maintenance are not “casuals.” They are, in fact, full members of our bargaining unit and deserve opportunities and upward mobility within the Maintenance Craft like every other Maintenance Craft member.
Out of Harm’s Way
The opportunity to get out of harm’s way – to secure a career position – is of critical importance to PSEs, who are always at risk of being released due to lack of work if the Postal Service starts consolidating and excessing again. If that occurs, the duty assignments our PSE members are holding down would be available for excessed career employees. That’s certainly part of what makes the opportunity for a custodial PSE to move within the craft as a member of the craft very important. It also is in keeping with the approach that all the crafts take in first offering jobs to the members of the craft.
To follow-up on the all-craft MOU, the Maintenance Craft officers and the Postal Service reached agreement on a separate memorandum concerning the procedures for PSE conversion in the craft. This resolved many logistical issues.
First, as the parties had agreed during negotiations, custodial PSEs earn a sort of seniority called “relative standing on the rolls.” For our purposes, seniority and relative standing on the rolls are interchangeable. Article 38 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement defines Maintenance Service Seniority as all time in the craft, regardless of occupational group or installation.
In our MOU, we applied that concept to PSEs, with the only restriction being it relates to time within the PSEs’ Career Status district of employment. Further, PSEs do not begin a new period of seniority due to a break in service. (PSEs are hired for a term of 360 calendar days or less per appointment and must have a break in service of at least five days between appointments.)
So, if a PSE was hired on Jan. 1, 2013, had his or her five-day break in service at the end of 2013 and returns as a custodial PSE, his or her “seniority” will pick up right where it left off. At the end of 2014, the PSE would have two years of PSE Maintenance Service Seniority, minus the five days for the break in service.
This is important, because the opportunity for conversion to career comes up in order of PSE seniority within a district. The Maintenance Division made this agreement during negotiations for the 2010-2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement for several reasons:
We felt it was important that custodial PSEs who work in small offices, where they may be the only custodian, have a chance at conversion to career. In those small offices, the likelihood of a custodial residual vacancy could be very remote. This way, all the PSEs will have an opportunity.
Additionally, this method respects seniority, which should be based on the application of Veterans’ Preference. If proper regulations are followed, the most senior of the custodial PSEs should be preference-eligible veterans, and since the PSEs in the associate offices could have been hired first, we wanted to ensure the small office PSEs had an opportunity for conversion.
We also set up a form of a dispute resolution process by directing issues regarding PSE conversion to the area level for management to discuss with Maintenance Craft NBAs. If they can’t resolve the issue, it will be moved to the headquarters level. Visit www.apwu.org for more information or to view the Maintenance Craft MOU on PSE conversion procedures.