April 2011 Update
The month of April has seen some extraordinary events. We’ve had the start up of the FSS in St. Paul, the closing of the “metro hub” in Minneapolis, and what can only be described as ongoing pandemonium at the NDC. Some people are suggesting that things aren’t transitioning smoothly as management tries to stuff the mail previously worked at the metro hub into operations at St. Paul, the NDC, and the Minneapolis plant.
Well those suggestions seem to be right on the mark. Couple the relocation of operations with last week’s relocation of Mail Handlers and it appears that it may take a while before some semblance of effective operations will be achieved. The retreat rights of Mail Handlers previously excessed from the NDC and St. Paul Branches who desired to return have been implemented and the excessing of Mail Handlers from the Minneapolis Branch is almost finalized. In addition, a retreat rights list has been established for the Minneapolis Branch and a sufficient number of duty assignments have been created to account for the Mail Handlers who returned to the downtown plant from the metro hub. As these duty assignments are new, they are being posted for installation wide bidding. It may take a couple of bidding cycles before everything settles down.
The initial Minneapolis excessing notice identified 128 Mail Handlers as excess to the need of the installation. When everything is completed I would anticipate that less than 35 people were required to relocate outside the twin cities metropolitan area. CORRECTED: Minneapolis Branch President Dean Abbate reports the exact number to be 26. I’m sure that people who we were able to remain employed locally are pleased with the result and I’m equally sure that people who had to relocate are dissatisfied with the result. Myself, I have mixed feelings about this result. Many Representatives worked extremely hard identifying residual vacancies locally and ensuring that people were afforded the opportunity to select them in accordance with Article 12 of the National Agreement. In no way am I dissatisfied with either their efforts or their accomplishments. Rather, I’m dissatisfied with the result that the National Agreement produced, in particular the excessing provisions of Article 12. No one should be required to relocate hundreds of miles away or convert to PTF in order to avoid relocation. Yet, I cannot hesitate to recognize that Article 12 is the lesser of two evils. Management can’t lay off a Mail Handler, so they relocate people as a means of accomplishing their staffing requirements. Do you really think management would pay for someone to relocate to Iowa if they could lay them off?
There can be no serious debate regarding whether it’s better to have a contract which requires management to relocate people rather than a contract which allows layoffs. Moreover, acknowledging that involuntary relocations are preferable to involuntary layoffs has the logical consequence of raising several questions. What can we do to make Article 12 better? How can we lessen the impact of excessing on Mail Handlers? Should additional limits be placed on excessing? And these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Recently I spent a week in Washington, DC serving as a member of the field negotiating committee. Information about the field negotiating committee is available on the National Unions website. This committee reviewed and made recommendations on some 900 contract proposals submitted by Members, Representatives, and Local Union Officers from across the country. There were many proposals submitted by the Members of Local 323, some with my assistance, some without. Quite frankly, I was very pleased to see that Members of Local 323 recognized the importance of the upcoming contract negotiations and sent in their proposal. In any event, these 900 proposals were sorted by contract Article into three large binders, with one binder comprised completely of Article 12 proposals.
Prudence dictates that I can’t get into specifics on our website concerning which proposals were selected; however, I will say that Local 323’s proposals were well received. Serving on this committee opened my eyes to several issues which we haven’t experienced to a great degree. While I could only bring the perspective of Local 323’s experiences to the table, a perspective based primarily on people being excessed out, I gained a great appreciation for the unique problems of installations receiving numerous excessed Mail Handlers. One statement which stuck with me was, “No one’s happy when they have 15 years seniority and they just had 100 people senior to them placed into their building.”
Of course proposals covering the entire gamut of National Agreement Articles were discussed and debated. These proposals concerned overtime, leave, holidays, the grievance procedure, Stewards rights, clothing allowances, etc. Finally, I would like to thank the National Officers as well as the Members of the Contract Administration Department for being receptive to all proposals and concerned for the difficulties being experienced by the Membership in today’s Postal environment. I know we all wish them the best as they prepare to negotiate the terms of the 2011 National Agreement.