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Democrats denounce Postal Service bid to break union deals

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Two key Democrats wrote to the US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe yesterday, insisting that USPS financial challenges can be tackled without going against union agreements to lay off thousands of postal workers.

The letter from the Ranking Members of the House Oversight committee and its postal subcommittee, respectively Elijah Cummings and Stephen Lynch, said they “strongly” objected to the Postal Service seeking to dissolve “no lay-off” clauses within current labour agreements.

USPS said last month it wanted help from Congress to break worker protections agreed with postal unions as recently as four months ago.

Postal executives are looking to slim the workforce by 120,000, with potentially a similar number to leave by attrition.

In their letter, Cummings and Lynch said seeking to nullify a union deal so soon after testifying to Congress that the deal was a good one “is neither fair to Postal Service employees nor helpful to the Postal Service’s credibility in future negotiations”.

USPS is currently in the process of negotiating new labour deals with three unions, the Congressmen noted.

Cummings and Lynch said they agreed that the workforce had to be reduced “over time”, but added that they believed USPS could continue its “excellent service” without “abandoning the collective bargaining process and dismantling employee rights”.

“Betrayed”

The letter from the two Congressmen came yesterday, on the same day that the president of the American Postal Workers’ Union, Cliff Guffey, told the US Senate that his union felt “betrayed” by the Postal Service for seeking to undermine the agreement hard-won by the APWU only a few months before.

Guffey told the Senate that ordinarily, postal unions had a relatively good relationship with management.

But in his testimony, he said: “We are outraged by the Postal Service’s attempt to abrogate the agreement on the subject of layoff protections for APWU bargaining unit members we signed only a few months ago.”

Guffey added that it was “ridiculous” for USPS to undermine the APWU deal when the Postal Service “already employs tens of thousands of workers who do not have any protection against being laid off”.

“This situation makes it clear that what the Postal Service is really saying is that it wants the Congress to authorize it to lay off 120,000 career postal employees and replace them with temporary workers without retirement benefits,” the union president said.

The unions are supporting postal reforms put forward by Congressman Lynch earlier this year, stating the belief that returning the $7bn overpaid by USPS into its federal pension fund and the $50-$75bn said to have been overpaid into its civil service retirement fund would be enough to allow the Postal Service to pay off its debts.

Other measures, including the development of new postal products could help avoid widespread job losses in maintaining long-term sustainability, they believe.

Source: James Cartledge, Post&Parcel

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