USPS and unions fail to reach deals

Contract negotiations between USPS and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) resulted in a stalemate at the weekend. No result was reached between the operator and the union after the deadline passed at midnight on Saturday.

Whilst the deadline also expired on negotiations with another union, American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO (APWU), an extension for talks has been extended until noon tomorrow (23 November).

Should APWU negotiations fail as they have with the NRLCA, a process begins which could result in a third party determining contract terms and work rules for more than 324,000 employees whose wages and benefits exceeded $20 billion last year, USPS said.

Unlike the private sector, when negotiations come to an impasse, Postal employees are not permitted to strike. That’s because Congress designated the Postal Service as an essential service to the nation. An arbitrator determines the final outcome and is not legally required to consider the Postal Service’s financial obligations when rendering a decision.

USPS is looking to control the cost of its workforce after being faced with huge losses, resulting in the company posting a net loss of $8.5bn for FY 2010.

The APWU represents 209,000 employees who work as clerks, mechanics, vehicle drivers, custodians and in some administrative positions.

Employees represented by the NRLCA primarily deliver mail in rural and suburban areas. The NRLCA represents 67,000 career employees and 48,000 non-career employees who substitute for career employees on their days off.

Two other unions represent most other postal employees. More than 205,000 employees represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (NALC) deliver mail in metropolitan areas and 48,000 employees represented by the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, AFL-CIO (NPMHU) work in mail processing plants and Post Offices.

The NALC and NPMHU begin negotiations late next year.

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