Postal Service contract negotiations continue

Eric Hylden/AP
The U.S. Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union have put employee reassignments on hold as negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement continue.

APWU's contract expired on Nov. 20, but both parties decided to extend the agreement, first to Nov. 23 and again until Dec. 1. The contract continues day by day and will remain in effect until differences are resolved or an impasse is reached, USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said.

With negotiations ongoing, the Postal Service and APWU have agreed to a temporary moratorium on "excessing," or reassigning employees to different work sites based on the agency's current needs.

"Mail volume has dropped dramatically, and we've been as quickly as possible moving people to where the workload is," Saunders said. "We're trying to balance resources with workload, and we've been doing it under the current contract. It has been an issue."

According to APWU President Cliff Guffey, the freeze impacts thousands of employees in hundreds of locations who otherwise would have been uprooted and assigned to duties outside their craft. "One of our top priorities is to restore work that has been contracted out, or assigned to supervisory personnel. This would bring stability to APWU members who have suffered severe hardships due to long-distance reassignments caused by excessing," Guffey said, stressing that the freeze will remain in effect as long as bargaining continues.

If the parties fail to reach a new agreement, or decide on an alternate procedure, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will appoint a mediator. If no settlement is reached within 60 days of the expiration of the contract, then both parties will submit all outstanding issues for binding arbitration, according to the union. APWU represents 209,000 clerks, mechanics, vehicle drivers, custodians and administrative aides.

The Postal Service remains in a stalemate with the National Rural Letters Carriers' Association, the union that represents 67,000 carriers and 48,000 substitutes who deliver mail primarily in rural and suburban areas. Negotiations with the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union are scheduled to begin next fall.

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