Nati Harnik / AP

Rejecting Agency's Offer, Postal Supervisors Fight for a Bigger Pay Raise

Employees are represented by a management association rather than a union and are on a pay-for-performance system.

A major U.S. Postal Service group is challenging the pay raises offered by the agency, appealing to a third party to offer more significant salary increases to tens of thousands of postal workers.

The raises will affect most of the 45,000 supervisors, managers, postmasters and technical specialists covered under the Executive and Administrative Schedule represented by the National Association of Postal Supervisors. The increases will be mostly retroactive, covering the period from 2016 through 2019.

NAPS challenged the USPS offer through a “filing of fact finding,” which requests that the independent Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service guide a panel of experts to weigh in on the dispute. The group said the Postal Service’s proposed raises fell short of legal requirements because they were not comparable to the private sector, and would be insufficient to attract and retain top talent or provide sufficient pay gaps between supervisors and the employees they oversee.

Morale is already low within the EAS workforce, the group said, and would be worsened by the suggested pay raises. Most postal supervisors and managers are covered under EAS. The employees are on a pay-for-performance system.

The EAS employees are in a unique position, as they are designated as non-bargaining workers and are represented by a management association rather than a union. USPS is still required to engage in a “consultative process” to determine pay for the supervisors and managers, but those employees are not covered under a collective bargaining agreement.

NAPS will appoint one mediator and USPS will appoint another, who together will select the third member of the panel. Both sides will submit supportive documentation to determine a fair and reasonable pay increase. Even if the panel rules in the employees’ favor, however, the Postal Service is not required by law to implement its findings.

“That’s one of our problems with the law,” said Ivan Butts, NAPS’ executive vice president. “We would like to see teeth.”

Because the supervisors are on a pay-for-performance system, they do not receive annual cost-of-living adjustments. Many of them would face a pay freeze in 2018 under the Postal Service’s proposal, Butts said. An inspector general report last year found the pay system was not rewarding top performers, instead collectively punishing employees for the work of their colleagues.

The mediators are expected to rule within the next few months. NAPS went through this process once before, in 2012, and the Postal Service largely chose to ignore the panel’s findings. For the most part, Butts said, the agency looked at the findings and responded, “Thank you but no thank you.” He is still hoping, though not confident, that this time will be different.

“I like to always think i’m optimistic,” Butts said, adding there is reason to believe based on the recent negotiations that  “the agency would readily acknowledge and accept what the panel finds.” He expects, however, that USPS will revert back to what it already offered.