Postal Service contract negotiation deadline extended again

Union, USPS will resume negotiations Monday.

Negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement between the U.S. Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union have been extended again -- this time to Dec. 1. The parties agreed to resume talks Nov. 29, after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The deadline was extended after USPS and the union failed to produce a new contract by noon Tuesday, USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said. The APWU represents 209,000 clerks, mechanics, vehicle drivers, custodians and administrative aides.

Despite the delays, APWU "remains hopeful that we can arrive at a settlement," union president Cliff Guffey said in a news release.

In the interim, the current contract remains in effect. If the parties fail to reach a new agreement, or decide on an alternate procedure, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service would appoint a mediator. If no settlement is reached within 60 days of the expiration of the contract, both parties would submit all outstanding issues for binding arbitration, the union said.

"[The contract] won't be extended indefinitely," said APWU spokeswoman Sally Davidow. "But it's too soon to predict what the outcome will be."

The Postal Service's Saunders declined further comment.

USPS is seeking to adopt more flexible schedules and use more part-time workers as it struggles to manage an $8.5 billion loss in fiscal 2010, and is under pressure to eliminate Saturday delivery service. At the same time, the union is trying to prevent wage freezes, benefits cuts and layoffs.

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 primarily deliver mail in rural and suburban areas.