Mail Handlers Local 323

Representing Mail Handlers and MHAs working for the United States Postal Service

Local President's Page

February 2021 Update

“I’m senior.”  Last month’s column produced some interesting feedback.  While this feedback was positive, it indicated an interest to delve into this topic further.  Specifically, how seniority relates to working overtime.  So, this month we’ll explore the relationship between seniority and the selection of Mail Handlers for overtime.  Your Representatives have a lot of experience enforcing the contract when it comes to overtime violations.  That’s because it’s a type of grievance which continually arises during our enforcement of the National Agreement.


Overtime is governed by Article 8.5 through a system that has been in place since the 1987 National Agreement.  This sets up the overtime desired list (OTDL) used to determine the Mail Handlers who will be selected for overtime.  Only Full-Time Regulars may sign the OTDL.  The Union and management in each facility can define the scope of the OTDL in the Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU) during Local Negotiations.  That scope must be section within a tour; or tour; or section within a tour, and tour (CIM Article 8.5 – Page 15). 


Many Branches have negotiated additional provisions in the LMOU which allow Mail Handlers signing the OTDL to limit or enhance their availability.  Options which allow signing the OTDL for begin tour only, end tour only, same day only, or off day only, give people the ability to limit their availability.  In the absence of such provisions, Mail Handlers signing the OTDL are making themselves available to work twelve hours a day and seven days a week.  In addition, provisions which allow management to call someone at home or allow someone to indicate their desire to be called a home, enhance the availability to work overtime.


Availability is the first factor used to determine which OTDL Mail Handler is selected.  The CIM (Article 8.5 – Page 14) explains, “Overtime is assigned to available, qualified employees on the OTDL prior to using part-time flexibles or casuals on overtime.”  This is also true with respect to MHAs.  Only when more than one person has the same availability does seniority come into play.  Article 8.5 C explains this principle, “When during the quarter the need for overtime arises, full-time regular employees with the necessary skills having listed their names will be selected in order of their seniority on a rotating basis.”


The hours and off-days of your duty assignment (bid) determine your availability to work overtime.  Seniority will only come into play if others on the OTDL have the same availability. 


A simple example would involve off day overtime:


The senior person in the section has Saturday and Sunday off.  The junior person in the section has Tuesday and Wednesday off.  Both are on the OTDL.  Every week the junior person comes in for off day overtime on Tuesday, but the senior person is never scheduled for off day overtime on either Saturday or Sunday. 


Does the senior employee have a grievance?  No.  The senior employee is not available to work off day overtime on Tuesday because it’s a regularly scheduled day.  Certainly, no one is available to work off day on their regularly scheduled day.  Moreover, the need for off day overtime every Tuesday doesn’t mean that there will be a need for off day overtime on either Saturday or Sunday.  Is this result consistent with the principles of seniority?  Absolutely.  The senior person could have exercised their seniority to bid on the job with Tuesday and Wednesday off.  We know they would have got the bid because they’re senior.  Instead, the senior person chose to prioritize Saturday and Sunday as off days over working off day overtime on Tuesday.  That is the result their exercise of seniority produced.


You can always change your availability for overtime by exercising your seniority to bid on jobs with different hours, off days, or in different sections.  I know this doesn’t come as a surprise to a lot of people.  Many Mail Handlers know what tour, what section, what hours, and what off days, will produce the most overtime; and they bid to those jobs.  Some have this down to a science.  There are even some senior people on the OTDL who choose to work tour three with Thursday and Friday off.  They know there’s a good chance that MHAs (or casuals in the past) will be in an overtime status on one of those days; and if they don’t get to come in, they will be paid for being bypassed.  They have exercised their seniority in the bidding procedure to produce this result.


Overtime and seniority present some interesting dynamics.  Availability overrides seniority until other OTDL Mail Handlers have the same availability.  At that point seniority controls selection within the rotation.  Availability can be changed by exercising seniority to bid a job with different hours, different off days, in a different section, or on a different tour.  In sum, first we use our seniority in the bidding process to determine our availability for overtime, and then our seniority determines our place in the overtime rotation relative to others who are also available.   


In every exercise of seniority, it’s necessary for each Mail Handler to determine what’s most important to them.