February 2013 Update
The February 15th release of the arbitration award over the terms of the 2011 National Agreement has brought a close to another round of national level collective bargaining. Since the release of this award the Officers, Representatives, and Members of Local 323 have been discussing its terms and debating the pros and cons of the changes. However, no one seems to be surprised by the outcome.
There can be no question that the retention of COLA’s, the general wage increases, the no-layoff protection, and the avoidance of a permanent two tier wage scale are the highlights. The changes to Article 11 (Holidays) are an improvement and the modifications to Article 12 (Principles of Seniority) are all steps in the right direction.
The obvious downsides are the establishment of the non-career bargaining unit category of Mail Handlers Assistant (MHA’s) while retaining casuals at the reduced percentage of 5%. With regard to the MHA’s, the arbitration panels decided to provide for a district cap of 15%, albeit with an installation limit of 20%. That, at least to me, seems like a step backwards. Those of you who’ve been around a while may remember that casuals were measured by district prior to the 1998 National Agreement. Actually, the measurement criterion was by division which is the predecessor of the current district structure. The current Northland District comprises what was previously known as the Twin Cities Division. The State of North Dakota in those days was part of the Omaha Division which also included the States of South Dakota and Nebraska. Today of course, the current Dakotas District is comprised of North and South Dakota as well as the State of Montana. Under the previous structure it never made sense to me that the complement of Mail Handlers in Mankato, Duluth, St. Cloud, and Eau Claire, could be counted for the purpose of allowing the employment of a casual in St. Paul. Similarly, I’m not pleased that the Mail Handler complements in Billings, Sioux Falls, and Bismarck, may now be counted to allow for the employment of an MHA in Fargo.
Despite the pitfalls which resulted from the arbitration process, we have begun meeting internally as well as with management in order to discuss implementation. Whether you love it, hate it, or are indifferent, this is the contract we have until May 2016 and it must be implemented.