by Lindamarie Peabody

The votes are in and the new contract has been ratified! The National Agreement went into effect on May 23, 2011 and will continue until May 20, 2015. About half of our members voted, while the other half fell asleep at the wheel. Thank you to those who cared enough to vote and to those who didn't...shame on you! Now that I got that off my chest :-), I want to explain how some of the new provisions of this contract will affect us. In my opinion we are in for a very difficult time the next few years. At the top of our "OH NO THEY DIDN'T" list is the right of supervisors to legally work in our Level 18 and below offices. The Level 18 offices can have a supervisor work up to 15 hours per week and the Level 15/16 offices up to 25 hours per week. This is going to hit Tri County hard due to all of our small offices and will ultimately affect clerk hours and positions. Second, we have given management the authority to increase the use of non-career employees from the current level of 5.9 percent to 20 percent in the clerk craft and 10 percent in the maintenance craft. The use of a new employee called a PSE or postal support employee, who will get paid 10 percent less than us, but can still join the union and receives leave and benefits, will take place of TE's and casuals. The only difference is that these new employees can do ANYTHING we do as a full time regular clerk. Need I say more? Say goodbye to overtime and hello to "cheaper" help. We voted yes to this and will see it in our future earnings! The biggest and most mysterious give back provision was our agreement that management can create full time positions that start at anywhere from 30-48 hours. The postal service now has it in WRITING that we agree that they can cut positions and make them 30 hours. I don't understand how we could say that knowing the Postal Service's track record on eliminating jobs in the past. Well, I am proud that Tri County Area Local endorsed a NO vote collectively for this bargaining agreement, because if it goes where I think it will go, at least people will know we did see that this agreement has set us back many years.

Anyway let's try to move forward to see the positive aspects of this agreement of which there are few. Yes, we have a no-layoff clause still in effect which is fantastic news, but if the only 40 hour a week job is in Fairbanks, Alaska (no offense :-) ), do we uproot our lives and buy a parka, or do we take a 30 hour a week job that is in Pennsylvania? Yes, we have pay raises totalling 3.5 percent and COLA's deferred for the first two years, but can I ask what they meant when they said our health care expenses will raise SEVERAL dollars and exactly how MANY dollars are we talking about? Yes, we have limits on excessing up to 50 miles except in cases where there aren't any available positions...and then we will discuss it with management to determine what to do next? Seeing how well management listens to us now, this should be a piece of cake! If only we lived in a perfect world! OK, so I am still trying to be positive but my head is telling me otherwise. In no way am I trying to say that what we achieved in this economy isn't good, but almost every highlight of this contract has a low-light attached to it?! Well, I give up on trying to be positive and we will just have to wait to see what happens. All I know is that my paycheck is still going to the bank every two weeks (with some OT in it!) and my union-won three-week vacation is still going to happen this year! That is all I can be POSITIVELY sure of at this time!

I hope everyone has an awesome summer and don't forget the sunscreen!

In union solidarity,

Lindamarie Peabody
Director of Industrial Relations/Editor