September 2022 Update
The 2019 National Agreement expired on September 20th. It does not come as a surprise that the National parties were unable to produce a negotiated settlement by the contract expiration date. This is what usually happens. So, what happens now?
The National Union held a zoom meeting on September 23rd to update the Local Unions on the status of negotiations. During that meeting, the National Union stated that negotiations would continue as long as the parties feel that progress is being made. This means that either part is free to conclude at any time that the negotiations have reached an impasse. Should either side declare impasse, the parties may adopt procedures such as mediation or fact finding; although, these mechanisms have not been particularly helpful in the past. Ultimately, the terms of the 2022 National Agreement may have to be decided in interest arbitration. This involves the appointment of an arbitration panel consisting of an arbitrator appointed by the Postal Service, an arbitrator appointed by the Union, and a neutral arbitrator who issues the final decision. While I don’t profess to be an expert on the dynamics involved in an interest arbitration, the general premise is that the neutral arbitrator will decide what’s in the best “interest” of the parties and determine what the likely outcome would have been had the parties acted reasonably. It’s intriguing at least as a concept.
There has already been some clamoring to head immediately to interest arbitration. We would do well to remember that we’re in our current situation because of an arbitrator’s decision. It was an arbitrator who gave us the different pay schedules; and if this doesn’t demonstrate that negotiated agreements are preferable to an arbitrator’s decision, I don’t know what does.
For now, we wait. There is still a good chance that a negotiated agreement can be reached. Should a negotiated agreement be reached, it will become known as a tentative agreement. Tentative because it will be subject to a ratification vote by the Membership. Voicing your opinion as a Member is always of great importance to the Union, perhaps most so when voting on a tentative National Agreement.