Two of the three postal unions ratified labor agreements with the U.S. Postal Service this month, leaving only the National Association of Letter Carriers without a contract — but negotiations are continuing.
Members of the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, voted 74,873 to 41,388 in favor of a contract. With 360,000 members, the APWU is the largest federal employee union and the largest postal union. Members of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, with more than 50,000 members, voted 13,556 to 5,734 in favor of their contract.
Terms of the APWU agreement include a 6.75 percent wage increase over two years and an 18-month ban on contracting postal jobs to private companies. The USPS also agreed to pay 85 percent of the health benefit premium for members. NPMHU members will receive pay increases of between 6 percent and 7 percent over the next two years.
“My hat's off to [APWU president] Moe Biller and his negotiating team and our negotiating team, led by Jack Potter, for having the patience and the forbearance to bring a long, hard set of talks to conclusion,” said postmaster general William J. Henderson.
APWU and NPMHU members will see wage increases in their February 19 paychecks. In addition, the USPS will provide retroactive pay from the time the contract expired on Nov. 20.
The agreements with the two unions marks the first time since 1987 that the USPS was able to reach wage settlements without having to resort to binding arbitration. It's also the first time that a two-year contract was formulated.
“The postal service wanted two years,” said APWU spokesman Tom Fahey, “but for us it's a wash because if things are going well, we'll get to go back and improve on this even sooner. And if we find that things don't turn out the way we'd like, we can do something about it more quickly.”
While ratification of the APWU agreement was a victory for Henderson — who took charge last spring with a promise to reverse the agency's acrimonious relations with its workers — DMers are concerned the increase may cost the postal service more than it can afford. Based on the numbers released so far, the Direct Marketing Association said the contracts will cost the agency $1 billion above the cost of living increase per year for the length of the two-year contracts.
“The postal service has to get some off-setting productivity increase in order to take care of those increases that they have given over and above the rate of inflation to employees,” said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government relations at the DMA. “While we are pleased that the deal was negotiated, the jury is still out as to whether or not instead of negotiating a deal they gave away a deal.”
USPS spokesman Roy Betts said the DMA's $1 billion number is “pure speculation.”