USPS labour talks continue “feverishly” past latest deadline

Labour negotiations are continuing between the United States Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union today. The two sides have agreed to extend the current contract, the 2006-2010 Collective Bargaining Agreement, for a third time following extensions of the original November 20 deadline to 23 November and 1 December.

The union, which represents 220,000 workers, said yesterday afternoon that the latest extension will now run until a new agreement is hammered out “through negotiation, mediation or arbitration”.

APWU president Cliff Guffey said his team was working through the night and would “cover the clock” in order to reach resolution.

“We have been working feverishly to reach an agreement that is good for postal workers and the Postal Service, and we will continue our efforts,” he said. “We still believe there is potential to reach a negotiated settlement.”

USPS spokesman Greg Frey confirmed today: “The deadline that was extended has passed, but they are continuing to negotiate.” However, the spokesman told Post&Parcel the Postal Service was not making any further comments on the process.

The conflict between the two sides has seen USPS demands for a pay freeze rejected by the unions. The National Rural Letter Carriers Association has already broken off talks with the Postal Service, and now awaits an arbitration process.

The APWU noted that if its demands were not satisfied, it too would be heading for arbitration after 60 days of the contract expiring, appointing one representative to work with a USPS-appointed arbitrator and a third, neutral arbitrator to force a new contract.

In the mean time, the union has been arguing that the well-known financial problems of the USPS were not caused by its postal worker members, claiming that the “primary cause” has been the federal requirements for the USPS to pre-fund its retiree healthcare obligations at a highly accelerated rate.

Postal workers therefore should not have to take a hit to their salaries to deal with the financial problems, the union said.

It was provided ammunition last week in the form of the results of recommendations from the Office of the Inspector General for changes to the retiree healthcare system that would save the USPS $60 billion. The recommendations suggested bringing the system more in line with other federal agencies, and perhaps increasing the pre-funding rates during more “financially lucrative” periods for the Postal Service.

“The unions, management, big mailers, knowledgeable legislators, and postal commentators all agree that legislative action is required to address this problem,” insisted APWU’s Guffey.

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