Postal Service opens negotiations with rural union

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The US Postal Service opened contract negotiations this week with the union that represents its rural workforce, the second of two contracts set to expire at midnight on November 20. The USPS also started negotiations in late August with the American Postal Workers Union.

The National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) is the third-largest of the four postal unions, representing about 67,000 career employees and 48,000 non-career employees. The average yearly salary and benefits for a rural carrier is about $74,000, according to the Postal Service.

The NRLCA contract is unlike the other Postal Service union contracts because the organization uses an evaluated pay system. Rural routes are evaluated once a year to measure volume and driving distance, then NRLCA salaries are adjusted according to changes in volume loads and other factors. NRLCA union members are paid for a job, not an hourly wage.

“It's a good system. We adjust the work load and the system based on the annual evaluation,” Anthony Vegliante, USPS EVP for human resources, told reporters at an August briefing.

Despite the progressive nature of the contract, it is not always easy to negotiate. The Postal Service and the NRLCA went to arbitration after failing to reach a settled agreement in 2006. Under the collective bargaining process, the USPS and the union go to a neutral arbitrator for a decision if they cannot reach a settled agreement.

The USPS enters these labor negotiations as it seeks permission to reduce home delivery to five days per week and enact a series of rate increases amid plummeting mail volume. The Postal Service is seeking greater flexibility in how it schedules workers to better match resources with workload.

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