Last week, St Paul Processing and Distribution Plant Manager Randy Elsen informed the St. Paul APWU of yet another Function 1 Staffing model which must be implemented immediately. This new round of Full-Time staffing “adjustments” will require 80 FT Clerk position to be changed less than one hour. These changes, we are told, will be notifying the affected employees this week with the changes to be effective Saturday, October 28th. In addition, the Plant Manager stated 219 Full-Time duty assignments will be reposted. Originally, it was stated this would be done in the November posting. However, due to the short notice, management is unable to provide 30 day’s notice to the affected employees as required by the contract. This means management has a decision to make concerning if they want to do this during December. Management has yet to give us a response on this issue.
The St. Paul Area Local met with management on Friday, October 20th concerning these changes. Management was unprepared for the meeting and could not answer the questions posed by the St. Paul Area Local. It appears management is reducing the FT compliment of employees from 425 to 404 from the charts management presented. This reduction would indicate Article 12 will have to be used. Article 12 of the National Agreement provides agreed to rules for both sectional excessing within the Installation and outside the installation excessing events. Management was unable to tell us which of these events will occur. If it is an outside the Installation excessing, management is required to notify the National APWU Regional Coordinator and have a meeting to explain the event. As of this morning, this notification has not been given. This is not to say it will not come in the near future. Nonetheless, even if the excessing remains within the Installation, management is required to give the Union a six month notice whenever possible. Management rarely gives this agreed to notice, however, the St. Paul Area Local enforces it through grievances when this occurs.
Why is this occurring?
Management claims the St. Paul Processing Plant does not earn the present Full-Time compliment. When the APWU inquired to explain, we were told by Plant Manager Elsen the recent Function 1 Staffing was run on projected numbers for 2018 and due to the anticipated reduction in letters and flats, the company needs to adjust staffing as soon as possible. This type of staffing reduction has no basis in the National Agreement. The Labor Scheduler is no longer generating staffing from what employees are actually doing to create an earned Full-Time compliment. Management is now clearly manipulating the data to get it to produce the number of cuts they believe is needed to balance the budget for the fiscal year 2018, thus reducing the Labor Scheduler to an arbitrary and capricious process to determine proper staffing for the Processing and Distribution plants.
So why is the Postal Service suddenly have a fiscal crisis? The issue is three-fold. First, in 2006 when Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, one of the provisions chained postal rates to the Consumer Price Index. This provision caps the amount of money the postal service can raise stamp prices. However, the provisions allow for the Postal Service to raise an exigency case for an increase greater than the CPI. In 2013, The Postal Regulatory Committee approved an exigency surcharge of 4.3% due to the effects of The Great Recession of 2008-2009. This provided much needed income to improve conditions within the Postal Service, we, in fact, saw an increase in full-time positions during this time period. This leads us to the second reason, the 4.3% was determined to end in March. This created a 2 billion dollar hole in the Postal Services Budget. The third reason is our Contract expires in 2018. By creating a fiscal crisis, management can place themselves in position to demand deeper concessions by the Union and if they are unable to get them through negotiation, they will position it in front on an Arbitrator to decide a number of concessions the Union will be required to give.
These issues are political! Elections have consequences! The decisions which hamstring the Postal Service financial conditions have been exacted by the party in charge of all branches of Federal Government for both the 2006 PAEA and the appointments of the Postal Regulatory Commission responsible for this decision. It is clear when the Republicans are in charge they are coming for our full-time jobs, which provide living wages and benefits.
While the Union has faced these struggles many times over the last 100 years, this recent attack is one of the most severe. In order to weather this slash and burn process, we will need each and every member to become active in the workplace and be willing to discuss the degradation happening to the Postal Service with their family and people in the community. We need to cultivate support to keep the Postal Service a vital public service to the American people.
We also need the members to ask the tough questions to management in the upcoming notification service talks given to members. Ask them how they plan on getting the mail delivered to the public without people to do the work. Ask them why they lied to you when they said if you increase productivity they would be able to add jobs, which you did by the way. Ask them why they are not standing up for you when these unrealistic staffing models are proposed. Ask them who they are going to supervise when there is not one left on the workroom floor due to the continued draconian cuts. I hate to use hyperbole, but this is a fight for the survival of our full-time jobs. If now is not the time to become active and involved, when is? The history of this Local shows time and time again that our members respond together in unity to stand against the degradation of the moment. Hang in there, fight back, and help in the struggle.
APWU St. Paul, MN Area Local APWU
Todd Elkerton , President 8/17/17