USPS-APWU arbitration decision puts moratorium on plant consolidations and outsourcing retail

July 11, 2016
The Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union have a new contract. Last week, the arbitrator on the case, Stephen Goldberg, issued his decision and award, thus ending a two-year dispute.

The new contract provides protections against layoffs for all career employees (who were on the rolls as of July 8), puts limits on more subcontracting, and converts many noncareer employees in maintenance and motor vehicle crafts to career status. Employees will have to pay higher health insurance premiums, and career employees will receive a 3.8 percent wage increase over the life of the contract.

APWU members will be interested in the entire contract, with its provisions on wages, hours, and conditions of employment, but there are also two sections in the decision that directly affect postal customers. One provision puts a one-year moratorium on creating new private retail outlets for postal services, and the other section prevents the Postal Service from closing more processing plants until April 2017, which should help with delivery-time performance.

Overall, the main impact of the moratorium [on outsourcing to private retailers], will probably be to prevent another major initiative like the Staples deal from happening. If the Postal Service has plans to locate thousands of contract units or approved shipper outlets in other big box chains, the plans will have to wait.

Staples_Stop_2During the moratorium, the APWU is not supposed “to engage in any acts intended to prevent the Postal Service from successfully establishing or maintaining business relationships with potential or existing Approved Shippers, VPO or CPU program customers.” That restriction may not, however, apply to the controversy over Staples.

In a footnote to this provision in the agreement, the arbitrator adds, “I understand that the parties have a long-running dispute regarding Staples as a Postal Service retail partner. In light of that dispute, I am referring this part of this Award to the parties to assess how it will apply to Staples.” …

… At this point, it’s not certain what will happen when the moratorium [on plant closings and consolidations] ends next April. Perhaps the remaining plant consolidations will resume, or maybe the moratorium will be extended, or maybe the feasibility studies will show that more consolidations aren’t advisable. It’s also possible that Congress will pass legislation putting a stop to further plant closings.

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