January 2020 Update
The Tentative Agreement - Part I
Deciding whether to support the ratification of a tentative agreement may be difficult at times. It involves weighing the benefits of accepting a known outcome against the uncertainty of arbitration. The question becomes: Do the benefits of ratification outweigh the risks of going to arbitration? Here are some of my thoughts.
Wage increases and the continuation of cost of living allowances are often a primary consideration. This is particularly true for those who have reached top step and rely upon general wage increases and COLAs for a rise in their standard of living. The 2016 National Agreement provided three general wage increases totaling of 3.8% during its term. Under the tentative agreement, Mail Handlers would receive four general wage increase totaling 3.9% through November 2021.
For MHAs, the 2016 National Agreement provided three general wage increases totaling of 6.8%, as well as incremental increases totaling $0.50 per hour during its term. Under the tentative agreement, MHAs would receive four general wage increase totaling 6.9% through November 2021; but, like the 2016 National Agreement, MHAs will not receive COLAs.
It should also be noted that the tentative agreement increases night shift differential by 2% per year, effective in May 2020, in May 2021, and in May 2022. Night shift differential has been frozen since 1996.
So, in comparison, the tentative agreement exceeds the wage increases provided by the 2016 National Agreement.
Turning to health insurance contributions, the 2016 National Agreement saw a reduction of employer contributions from 76% in 2017, to 74% in 2018, and to 73% in 2019, totaling a 3% reduction during its term. The tentative agreement maintains the 73% employer contribution in 2020, but this contribution reduces by 1% to 72% in 2021. As noted in the circulated information, this brings Mail Handlers on par with the 72% that the federal government contributes for federal employee.
As such, the tentative agreement minimizes the decrease in employer health care contributions when compared to the 2016 National Agreement. In addition, the tentative agreement provides additional contributions and options for MHAs; particularly after they complete their first 360 day term.
Another aspect of the tentative agreement’s economic package is a 2.5% increase in the clothing allowance each year of its term; although, I doubt that anyone will rely upon this as their sole criteria during the ratification vote. Our current problem with clothing allowance is the lack of brick and mortar retailers where it may be used.
No Layoff Clause - The no layoff clause has been maintained and will now cover career Mail Handlers employed as of September 20, 2019.
Elimination of Casuals – Casuals have been eliminated by the tentative agreement.
Changes to MHA Percentages and Employment – The district cap on MHAs has been eliminated. MHAs will now be measured solely by the installation percentage of 24.5%. That represents a 1% increase in the MHA installation cap. It seems to me that this increase in MHAs was a small price to pay for getting rid of the district cap. The district cap was problematic in several regards; but that was something dictated by an arbitrator. In any event, monitoring MHA percentages at the installation level is better from the perspective of contract enforcement.
During the peak season, management may employ an unlimited number of MHAs for 56 days, rather than an unlimited number of casuals. This resolves a couple of issues. Casuals were not part of the bargaining unit and management could pay them any amount they wanted, even more than the MHAs. With casuals gone that problem is gone as well.
MHAs will now be paid overtime for work over eight (8) hours in a day. This is a good improvement for MHAs, and it does not change management’s obligation to first utilized the overtime desired list.
This is a good place to break for now. I'll be following up with Part II shortly. In the mean time, continue your review of the tentative agreement. Feel free to contact your Steward, Branch President, or me, with any questions.