It Just Doesn’t Add Up - (winter 2006)
As a shop steward for about six years I filed a variety of grievances for the members that I represented. Some of the grievances were for discipline issued to the carrier and some were for contract violations. In the early years under the old grievance arbitration procedure employees were subject to actual time off suspensions, seven days and fourteen days were standard issue, unless the employee was issued a notice of removal. There was a time when any and all grievances in Brooklyn were systematically denied at the various steps of the procedure and would eventually be heard by an arbitrator. In many cases the discipline was either rescinded or modified and the employee was paid back the time that they lost during the suspension. Many advocates for the service would always quote the same line "let an arbitrator give them back pay". There were certain notices of discipline, some 14 day suspensions and some notices of removal that were so poorly written and documented that they should have never gone to arbitration. These individuals were awarded full back pay and in essence were actually given a paid vacation by the service simply because the advocates were instructed not to settle these cases. Several cases were removals and at that time it would take about twelve to fifteen months to get an arbitration date. This was due primarily to the amount of cases that were backed up in the system because of rubber stamping the grievances denied. The arbitrator awarded full back pay and these particular employees were restored to full duty with full back pay, including any over time that they may have been entitled to.
The service was just wasting time and money by forcing these cases to a full hearing. I don't mean to say that this was true for all discipline that was issued, however some of these cases were ridiculous and when one did the math, it just didn't add up. This trend continued for quite some time until several changes were made in Human Resources. Over the past several years various new programs were introduced by both parties in an effort to reduce the amount of grievances being filed and the discipline being issued. For the most part these programs were somewhat successful. A program entitled LISTEN (Letters in Lieu of Suspensions to Emphasize Needed improvement) was implemented in the Brooklyn Post Office. Discipline was greatly reduced for the first six months; however discipline eventually arose to its usual level, the only difference being that all suspensions were on paper and not actual time served.
As the Chief Steward for the branch I saw the same trend when grievances were filed for contract violations. The most common grievances were for violations of Article 8 and 11 dealing with overtime and holiday work. Management repeatedly assigned overtime to carriers who did not sign up for the overtime list. When it comes to preparing work schedules for holidays, the language in the National Agreement and the Local Memorandum is clear and concise, yet management continues to bypass or ignore this language which in turn leads to the filing of grievances. In many cases the carrier(s) end up being at higher rate of pay or in some cases a carrier will be paid in lieu of work for the entire day in question, when you stop and figure it all out, it just doesn't add up.
Recently the service and the union entered into a joint venture by publishing and distributing the Joint Contract Administration Manual, more commonly referred to as the JCAM. Both parties agreed to the interpretation of the provisions in the contract and reduced it to language that made it easy for all to understand and apply. There should be no guessing, or misinterpretation as to the language contained in the JCAM, yet in many cases management sees fit to interpret certain provisions to what they feel or want to believe is fact. Bottom line, a grievance is filed, the grievance is sustained and the carrier is paid in lieu of work, it just doesn't add up. No doubt the Postal Service will fight us tooth and nail at the bargaining table, if only we could get them to stop wasting money on grievances that are repeated over and over again, it could means a few more dollars in the budget for collective bargaining, it just doesn't add up. To all our members and friends Season's Greetings and a Prosperous New Year.