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Postal Service contract.

Postal Service contract

Negotiators for the U.S. Postal Service and three major unions agreed on new contracts, thereby averting use of fact-finding and binding arbitration procedures. These procedures are triggered if the parties are unable to settle before the existing contract expires, and have been used three times--in 1971, 1978, and 1984.

Despite the peaceful resolution with the Postal Service, there were interunion differences, as the American Postal Workers and the Letter Carriers criticized the leadoff accord negotiated by the Mail Handlers unit of the Laborers union. That 3-year agreement, reached in mid-July, called for a $350 specified increase in annual pay on July 21, 1987, followed by a $400 increase on July 21, 1988, and a $500 increase on July 21, 1989. The 51,000 workers represented by the Mail Handlers also may receive possible semiannual pay adjustments under the cost-of-living formula, which was continued at the rate of 1 cent an hour for each 0.4-point movement in the BLS CPI-W (1967 = 100).

Leaders of the Postal Workers and the Letter Carriers denounced the Mail Handlers' contract, calling it "obscene' and the "most shameful contract in the 17 years of collective bargaining in the Postal Service.' These unions were particularly critical of the 1.6-percent annual specified wage increases, in light of the 6.8-percent a year increases they were demanding.

Following the leadoff settlement, another dispute arose when the Postal Workers, backed by the Letter Carriers, accused the Mail Handlers and the Postal Service of planning to reclassify 10,000 Postal Workers' jobs so that they would fall within the jurisdiction of the Mail Handlers. This dispute was resolved when the Postal Service and the Postal Workers signed a memorandum assuring that the jobs would not be reclassified. In return, the Postal Workers and the Letter Carriers (who bargained as a unit) reduced their demand for specified wage increases to 4.5 percent a year.

Following this, the two unions returned to the bargaining table and settled with the Postal Service in late July, a few hours after the expiration of the prior contracts. The new 40-month contracts, a change from the parties' usual 3-year contracts, provided for specified wage increases totaling about 7 percent, plus possible cost-of-living adjustments totaling 11 to 12 percent, based on the unions' projection of movement of the CPI over the term. The specified wage increases, which totaled $1,700 to $1,866, consisted of a 2-percent immediate increase, $250 increases in July 1988 and January 1989, $300 increases in July 1989 and January 1990, and a $200 increase in July 1990, 4 months before the contract expiration date. Prior to the settlement, wages for the 350,000 Postal Workers and the 235,000 Letter Carriers ranged from $20,094 to $27,089 a year.

Other wage terms included continuation of the same cost-of-living pay adjustments formula as for the Mail Handlers, except an adjustment will be made in July 1990 because of the longer contract duration.

There were no changes in medical and life insurance plans, but there was a 10-percent increase in the uniform allowance over the term.

The economic terms negotiated by the Letter Carriers and the Postal Workers also applied to the Mail Handlers, whose contract included provisions for automatically raising their gains to any higher levels subsequently negotiated by the other unions.

These settlements concluded bargaining in the Postal Service except for one major unit, the Rural Letter Carriers, which represents 76,000 workers. Their contract expires in January 1988, with negotiations scheduled to begin 3 months earlier.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Developments in Industrial Relations; includes other labor news
Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Oct 1, 1987
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