APWU, USPS Eye One-Year Extension

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The American Postal Workers Union and U.S. Postal Service management agreed on a framework for a one-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement, with details still under discussion, according to an APWU newsletter published June 20.

The current contract is set to expire Nov. 20.

"If an agreement can be finalized and if it is approved by the union membership, it will include a raise, along with two cost-of-living adjustments, and upgrades of some positions in the clerk, maintenance and motor vehicle crafts," union president William Burrus said this week at a conference of local and state APWU presidents in New Orleans.

There would be no change to employee contributions to the health benefit or retirement programs, he said.

According to the newsletter, Burrus outlined the criteria he would use in deciding whether to extend the contract.

"A major consideration is whether we can achieve through a contract extension improvements that we are unlikely to achieve in negotiation or arbitration," he said. "If we are able to reach agreement on an extension, we will avoid the risks inherent in any contract negotiation."

Burrus noted that the union expected an assault on health and retirement benefits in the upcoming negotiations, which would begin in August if no agreement is reached before then.

Along with a contract extension, the parties are exploring a new concept: the creation of retail sales assistants who would work in grocery stores, malls and other venues easily accessible to the public, Burrus said. These positions would be reserved for retired postal employees who also would continue to draw their retirement annuities.

"This could create an opportunity for new jobs in areas where traditionally we have not had them," he said. "However, we would have to have absolute protection against any erosion in the number of retail sales associate positions at postal facilities in order to agree to such a model."

Extending the contract would mean that the collective bargaining agreements of the four largest postal unions -- the APWU, the National Association of Letter Carriers, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association -- all would expire Nov. 20, 2006.

"No specific contract language has been agreed to," Burrus said, "and no papers have been signed."

Burrus said he expects to meet with postal officials in the coming weeks to see whether they can reach an agreement. If a tentative agreement is reached, members of the APWU Rank and File Bargaining Committee must approve it before it can be sent to union members for a ratification vote.

In December 2002, APWU members voted to extend the 2000-03 agreement to this November. A contract extension this year would be only the second one in the union's history.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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