Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is the APWU Eating Its Young?

Although the American Postal Workers Union has done all the crowing about its new labor contract, the deal includes several items that could save the U.S. Postal Service significant expenses.

The USPS' contract with its largest union is mostly good news for current APWU members, but will mean lower pay and more erratic schedules for new hires, postal analyst Alan Robinson pointed out today.

"All employees hired after the contract is signed start at a lower rate than now exists," in some cases 26% lower, Robinson said in an in-depth analysis on his Courier, Express, and Postal Observer blog. "All employees hired after the contract is signed have a lower top salary than current employees even after they become career employees."

Nearly a year ago, the General Accounting Office urged the Postal Service to adopt such a two-tiered wage system that offers new employees less compensation while "grandfathering" current employees. As Dead Tree Edition noted at the time, that practice is sometimes known in the labor movement as "eating your young" because of its impact on future union members.

Some cities have signed such extreme eat-your-young labor contracts that they now have difficulty recruiting and retaining firefighters and police officers. By comparison, the APWU is only snacking on its future members.

Robinson also points out that the contract has several features giving the Postal Service "more flexibility to match actual hours to work". Among those are a provision that guarantees new full-time employees only 30 hours per week while allowing them to be scheduled for up to 48 hours and another that would allow their shifts to be anywhere from 4 to 12 hours long. For current full-timers, the weekly hours will vary from 40 to 44, while a daily shift will be 6 to 12 hours long.

Two more items about the new contract:

1) A new provision on excessed employees may dampen APWU's opposition to the consolidation of processing and distribution centers, which have been proceeding at a record pace lately. Some APWU members whose positions were eliminated have been transferred on short notice to another position more than 100 miles away, but the new contract would limit the distance to 50 miles.

2) "The Postal Service leaves the impression that the contract was a giveaway to employees," Robinson writes, by failing to explain how the contract will enable USPS to reduce costs. The Postal Service's latest cost-saving efforts seems to be relying on independent bloggers rather than a public relations department to present its case in controversial matters -- like Robinson on this contract or Dead Tree Edition earlier this month on alleged plans to close 3,000 post offices.

No comments: