USPS, unions extend contract negotiations again
The new deadline for a resolution is midnight Friday, Dec. 16. Contracts with the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union expired at midnight Nov. 20, but labor and management decided to extend the negotiation deadline until midnight Dec. 7. If the Postal Service, NALC and NPMHU come to an impasse over new contracts, then a third-party arbitrator will render a decision.
NALC represents more than 195,000 employees who work as letter carriers delivering mail primarily in urban areas. NPMHU represents more than 45,000 employees who work in mail processing plants and post offices. In 2010, wages and benefits for employees represented by NALC and NPMHU exceeded $15.7 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively. The agency successfully negotiated a contract with the American Postal Workers Union AFL-CIO that expires May 20, 2015. Employees represented by the APWU work as clerks, mechanics, vehicle drivers, custodians and in some administrative positions.
USPS and the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association failed to agree on a new contract in November 2010, and are following the current agreement until a third party determines the outcome of a new contract. Employees represented by NRLCA deliver mail in primarily rural and suburban areas.
Last month, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said he was optimistic that USPS and the unions would come to an agreement on the new contracts.
Earlier this week, the Postal Service announced it will close 252 of its 487 mail processing facilities. With these closures, first-class mail will move to a two-to-three day standard delivery time and next-day delivery will be rare. The move is expected to eliminate roughly 28,000 jobs nationwide.
Donahoe has said the Postal Service must cut about $20 billion in costs by 2015 to return to profitability. Although 80 percent of the agency's costs are related to labor expenses, continuing declines in mail volume also have contributed significantly to its fiscal woes.
The agency, which lost $5.1 billion in fiscal 2011, received a deferral until Dec. 16 from Congress last month on a $5.5 billion payment to prefund retirees' health benefits. A continuing resolution funding several agencies is set to expire on Dec. 16. The stopgap spending measure was part of a larger bill -- a minibus -- funding several departments and some smaller agencies for the remainder of fiscal 2012 and also included language on the deferral for the Postal Service.