USPS, union reach tentative agreement

The U.S. Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union have reached a tentative contract that preserves jobs and provides a 3.5 percent pay raise for three years.

Negotiations between the Postal Service and APWU have been ongoing since Sept. 1, 2010. The union's previous contract expired on Nov. 20, but both parties decided to extend it, first to Nov. 23 and again until Dec. 1. The contract remained in effect as the talks continued.

"Despite the fact that the Postal Service is on the edge of insolvency, the union and management have reached an agreement that is a win-win proposition," said APWU President Cliff Guffey. "The new contract will safeguard jobs, protect retirement and health care benefits, and provide a 3.5 percent wage increase over the life of the contract."

The agreement would protect APWU employees against layoffs and limits "excessing," in which employees are reassigned to different work sites based on the agency's current needs. It also includes provisions that will return to postal employees work that had been outsourced, or assigned to managers. The first pay raise will take effect in November 2012.

The Postal Service plans to cut 7,500 jobs, including 20 percent of the administrative workforce and 10 percent of postmaster jobs, while also reducing work hours, restructuring its staff and increasing flexibility to meet changing demand for services. The APWU contract creates a noncareer assistant category, which will include some clerk, maintenance and vehicle driver positions. These workers will receive lower pay than career employees but will be eligible for raises, health benefits and leave.

According to Guffey, there will be no changes to health care benefits in 2012. From 2013 to 2016, there will be a slight increase in employees' share of contributions totaling several dollars per pay period each year.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe this month told lawmakers that the agency is seeking to reduce its contribution to employee health insurance. The only compensation USPS offers in excess of the federal government is health benefits, he said.

The new agreement would cover 205,000 workers represented by APWU, including clerks, mechanics, vehicle drivers, custodians and administrative aides. Before it can take effect, union members still have to approve the provisions, which would extend through May 20, 2015.

The Postal Service remains in a stalemate with the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, which 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 this fall.

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