We continue to live in unprecedented times. While the novel coronavirus has not gone away, many states are moving through the various phases of “reopening” and we hope that process does not cause a dangerous spike in positive COVID-19 cases or worse yet, a “second wave.” As I mentioned to you in my last message, it is critical we all continue to exercise good judgment and follow the public health guidance from the CDC and Postal Service. We have seen an increase in rural carriers who have tested positive for the virus and the number of cases, week over week, continues to rise. In just this past week, we have had 50 additional rural carriers test positive for the coronavirus.
I also want to update you on the NRLCA’s efforts to work with the Postal Service on the impacts to the craft caused by a significant increase in parcel volume, in some cases exceeding 70-80 percent over the same weeks last year. We continue to closely monitor the volume trends. American consumers have shopped online in record numbers and that has meant more business and parcels for the Postal Service. We know that many of you are feeling overwhelmed and are working more hours than normal, and in some cases having difficulty working under weekly evaluation. To that end, several weeks ago we proposed a temporary MOU to the Postal Service that would (1) require managers to make every effort to give auxiliary assistance to those carriers who are exceeding the weekly paid evaluated hours for their routes where relief carriers are available and (2) provide overtime pay for any carrier who exceeds the weekly paid evaluated hours. We believe that this request was not unreasonable, yet the Postal Service was unwilling to agree to our proposed MOU.
We are also aware that some managers in the field have begun to pressure carriers about 2080 issues. Some managers are requiring carriers to sign blank 3971s and have already required carriers to take annual leave; others have started skipping carriers on the relief day work list. We are strongly suggesting that you do not sign blank leave slips (3971s) or be coerced into taking annual leave that you do not wish to take. Under no circumstances can carriers be required to take leave without pay.
During normal times, the Postal Service would have the option to skip carriers on the relief day work list, take away high option, and adjust mail routes to keep carriers from exceeding 2080/2240. We have placed the Postal Service on notice that we will not tolerate these actions during these unprecedented times. If you are being coerced or forced to do any of the above — being skipped on the relief day work list, threatened with losing your high option or having your route adjusted — contact your District Representative for guidance on filing a grievance. Let me make this very clear, the NRLCA takes exception to the Postal Service’s efforts to try to hold our carriers under 2080/2240 in the middle of a global pandemic. While our carriers struggle, we have learned that certain management groups are being compensated for all hours worked over 8.5 in a day due to pandemic-related increased work responsibilities. We are outraged at this double standard and will not stand for the harassment of rural carriers who have provided exemplary service during these unprecedented times.
We have asked the Postal Service to provide written guidance to the field that would instruct management on how to manage 2080/2240 issues without penalty to the carriers. As noted, we were hopeful that the parties could reach agreement on a temporary MOU that would provide the needed relief. We also asked the Postal Service to consider an MOU that would provide for the hiring of ARCs in any office where needed in order to provide assistance with increased parcel volumes. We have been patient while the Postal Service has considered our proposals but we have waited long enough without any satisfactory resolution to these pressing issues and are determined to protect the craft by asserting all of our contractual and legal rights.
Accordingly, please see appended to this message, a National-level Step 4 grievance filed by the NRLCA addressing these issues.
We have received numerous letters and e-mails from the field asking, “[w]hat is the NRLCA doing to address this increase in workload and the potential of 2080/2240 issues?” As you can see, we have been working on these issues. The global pandemic and the related increased parcel volumes seemed to come at us almost overnight. It reminds me of the 1985 movie Run Away Train, going at full speed with no way to stop it. Hopefully, the Step 4 grievance will not only address the concerns many of you have raised but will lead to real and meaningful changes for affected carriers. We are pleased to see this increase in parcel volume as we have seen a dramatic decrease in letter and flat volume. There is uncertainty as to how long the increase in parcel volume will continue. However, unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, and we will do everything we can to protect the interests of rural carriers.
Finally, we don’t want any rural craft employee to be placed in a situation that jeopardizes his or her health and welfare. Do not hesitate to fill out and present a PS Form 1767, (Report of Hazard, Unsafe Condition or Practice), if needed.
Thank you for your continued commitment to your customers, the Postal Service, and the NRLCA. I will provide another update as soon as there is news to share.