*USPS, Two Unions Continue Labor Talks

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The U.S. Postal Service and two of its three major unions have agreed to continue labor negotiations beyond the expiration of their contracts, but the agency and the third union have failed to reach a negotiated settlement.


Direct mailers are watching the negotiations closely because 80 percent of all postal costs are labor-related -- including wages, benefits and salaries -- so they directly affect postal rates.


The two unions that are continuing talks are the American Postal Workers Union and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. Their contract expired at midnight Monday. Talks continue this week.


The APWU is the agency's largest union, representing about 355,000 postal clerks, maintenance employees and motor vehicle operators. The NPMHU represents 61,000 mail handlers.


However, the USPS and the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association, which represents 114,000 rural letter carriers, failed to reach a negotiated settlement by the contract's expiration date, also Nov. 20, and did not continue the talks. As a result, postal management and union representatives have agreed to follow the statutory dispute resolution procedure. This process can include mediation and fact-finding proceedings and, if unsuccessful, result in binding arbitration.


Negotiations with all unions centered on wages and benefits and work rule issues.


The negotiation process allowing unions and the USPS to decide on new national agreements is based on collective bargaining rules under the National Labor Relations Act, which states that groups must begin formal negotiations 90 days before their contracts expire.
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