Postal Service begins negotiations with largest union

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The US Postal Service began negotiations today on a new contract with its largest employee union, the 211,000-member American Postal Workers Union (APWU), in what the top USPS negotiator calls one of the most important negotiations in his 35 years with the organization. The negotiations will occur as the USPS is seeking permission to reduce home delivery to five days per week and enact a series of rate increases.

“These are critical negotiations for the USPS,” said Anthony Vegliante, USPS EVP and chief human resources officer. “The future is going to be different from the past and we have to take this opportunity to make some changes.”

The Postal Service has suffered from the economic downturn just like other businesses, Vegliante said. However, it also has seen digital communications make a significant dent in mail volume, he noted. Mail volume has declined by 35 billion pieces since 2007, and the Postal Service expects to lose another 28 billion pieces by 2020. Labor costs make up 78% of total Postal Service costs.

The USPS can't count on mail volume growth in the future, he said.

“We need to match our work resources with our workload,” Vegliante said. “We need to be flexible.”

The Postal Service needs greater flexibility in how it schedules its employees, Vegliante said, in that it no longer needs all employees to work a fixed eight-hour schedule. The Postal Service has gone from an operation that runs 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to a smaller organization that processes mail only 16 hours a day for five or six days a week, he said.

“We need to look at workload and schedule people for when the work needs to be done and how it needs to be done,” said Vegliante. “We need a mix of different types of employee positions including full time, part time and non-career employees.”

APWU President William Burrus said at the opening of negotiations that “the history of the Postal Service is replete with forecasts of doom and gloom, but such dire predictions have not prevented us from exploring every opportunity to achieve agreement.”

The contract with the APWU and a separate one with the National Rural Letter Carriers Association expire November 20. The USPS will begin negotiations on September 13 with the Rural Carriers.

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