(This article was first reported in the September 2017, Local Newsletter)
Written by: Frank Bollinger Business Agent of APWU, SJAL #0526
OIG crossing the line?
Recently I have been working on a removal case. Management has messed up in so many ways that for them to prevail it would almost be a miracle. So what route do they take? They have the OIG try to influence a prosecutor to add language to a Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) offer that was already agreed to by the parties (the Union of course is not one of those parties for alleged criminal activities that go before a prosecutor). What did they want to have added? That the employee will not work for the USPS in the future. This language has been pushed all to often by the OIG upon prosecutors to add to PTI’s. What is wrong with this you ask? The OIG is not to have any impact on administrative actions taken against employees nor are they to do anything more than turn the report of their investigation over to a prosecutor if warranted.
From the OIG’s own website: “At the end of an investigation, the USPS OIG reports its findings to USPS management and, as appropriate, to prosecuting officials. The decision of what action to take rests with management and the prosecutor.”
The APWU-SJAL 526, as with any APWU Local, State or the National, has exclusive rights to bargain with USPS management regarding its members. This includes their protections as allowed regarding being removed from the Postal Service. The USPS OIG, though it has USPS in front of its name, is not part of or involved in demands such as denial of continued employment.
Please understand I am not saying that we have any say in criminal proceedings because we do not as a Union. This is not a standardized punishment being demanded by the OIG though. They do this as an end run to try and usurp the Union’s ability to represent the membership. Not only is this an apparent violation of the employee’s rights under the collective bargaining agreement but it also seems to be a violation of the APWU’s right to represent their membership in employment matters.
As of the typing of this article I am looking into the most appropriate way to combat this, it may take some creativity but we as a Local will always try to represent our members right’s under the Collective Bargaining Agreement no matter who is trying to come after them.
Should you have a Union Rep there for a PDI?
I really do not know how many times this has to be answered before it fully sinks in to all of our members. Y-E-S you should have a Union Rep present at any PDI or any investigation that may lead to disciplinary action! We still have members that unfortunately go into these meetings, even for something they look at as a simple attendance issues, without a representative. Some reasons we hear are “Well I did call out…”, “I know I did such and such”, “I didn’t think they were going to issue discipline over it”….. Then of course the Union is contacted and asked to have a Letter of Warning or worse removed from their files. You are putting us behind the 8-ball so to speak. What a lot of you may not understand is the PDI can be a valuable weapon when it comes time to defend a member in a disciplinary matter. There are procedures within the PDI that management must follow, we may not fully know if they were followed if we are not there at the time. They could record your response inaccurately and then it is only your word against theirs.
Take something that happened somewhat recently. A member requested a Union Rep, in the part of the process in the PDI asks if there is anything that you (the employee) would like to add that management should take into consideration. The employee gave a very reasonable and mitigating circumstance for tardiness. Something that was out of their control and provable. When it came time for the discipline the supervisor wrote that a PDI was conducted and that there were mitigating factors offered by the grievant. This could easily be controverted with the result being a positive negotiation in favor of the grievant.
As an added note: PLEASE if/when you are ever issued discipline, get a copy to the Union as soon as you possibly can. That doesn’t mean 11 days after you receive it, that means within a day or two, max!! We have 14 days to file grievances.
Custodians and Higher Level
If you are a custodian and you are being sent out to do lock changes, deliver express mail or any other thing that has you driving somewhere you should be placed into a higher level pay status (Level 5) for the time spent performing those duties. This is a policy that was agreed on years ago and then apparently when the levels increased from 3 to 4 some management decided that that old agreement only held that they would be paid level 4 and now that they were officially level 4 there was no higher level needed. National met at Step 4 on this issue and the old agreement stands true that custodians should be paid a higher level while performing these duties, meaning that now level 4 custodians should be paid level 5.
We are aware that a few will not press this issue because you may not want to “rock the boat.” Ultimately the decision will currently be yours as we are not going to police each office to see when a custodian leaves and when they return then check to see if they were put in for higher level. It is your money though that you are giving up on if you let management use you for cheaper pay. When you call out a few times and the total call-outs for the office start to impact your supervisor or PM’s bonus check, do you think they will not want to “rock the boat” by disciplining you or more likely will you be calling upon the Union to represent you in your PDI and likely subsequent discipline?
Article 1.6 and Crossing Crafts
President Armentani, Director of Associate Offices Wright, and myself have been addressing these issues on an almost daily basis at some offices. We continue to be successful in getting our members paid when management or another craft performs OUR WORK… We actually have offices where they were scheduling RCA’s (Rural Carrier Associates) to come in and throw parcels!!! Where supervisors come to work dressing in work clothes so that they do not get their better clothes dirty as they perform clerk work. The two main offices where our members are all over this are Mt. Laurel and Sewell. Why is this happening? Of course as many of you know, there is some guy/gal in an office that looks at numbers and to justify their job says “Oh yeah well we can cut this job or that job” without even stepping foot in your office.
This is something we as your Union Reps understand, it is frustrating but we can at least understand why some of the offices are forced to take these measures. Again that doesn’t mean we will just forgive and forget that they do it. What is even more frustrating is when we hear from other crafts or employees from a different office tell us that there are these violations going on yet we get no statements from the clerks at the offices where they are occurring. People, this is how they cut jobs. They show that they do not need all of the clerk hours to process the mail because it doesn’t show that they are performing the work or have employees from other crafts performing the work.
To our custodians who just do this to help out… Are you getting the correct level pay for doing this work? Not only that, but are you swiping to show that you are not performing custodial duties thus increasing the possibility of a Line H payout at the year’s end? Or are you just working at a reduced rate because you don’t care and it is something different than you normal routine?