Monday, April 4, 2011

Consolidation and Excessing

One of the most confusing parts about the new APWU - Postal Service Contract is how the Postal Service deals with excess employees.    This is particularly important for employees affected by plant consolidations and declining single-piece first class mail.

Since the beginning of the fiscal year, the APWU website lists consolidations that involve 77 city pairs.      The 77 city pairs represent consolidations that are under study, approved but implementation has not been completed, and those now under review.   The 77 city pairs also include a couple where mail from the plant losing a processing option is being shifted to two or more other facilities.  

The median distance between the old facility and the new facility in this list is 70.1 miles.   Only 18% of all city pairs are less than 40 miles apart and 28% are less than fifty miles apart.   This means that when a consolidation occurs, jobs will shift to a facility that is further than the plant losing processing operations to one that is outside the 40 or 50 mile limits.  So what happens to those employees whose jobs are moved?

A similar problem exists as single-piece volume declines.   Demand for labor handling facing and cancelling and originating sortation operations decline is likely to decline at close to the 7-10% annual decline in single piece mail annual rate with declines in demand for labor sorting destination sortation being somewhat less.  The decline in demand for labor will create excess employees, so how will the Postal Service handle it.

The following discussion reflects the answer that Postmaster General Jack Potter gave when asked about excessing and the forty mile rule.  

Forty and Fifty Mile Rule

The goal of Postal Management will be to first find a job for all excess employees within forty mile radius and if that is not possible within a 50 mile radius.   To do so it will use the newly agreed to flexibility in work schedules that will increase the probability that a job will exist closer to home.  This flexibility could result in an employee choosing one of the follwing options:
  • Traditional full time assignments.   In all likelihood there will be fewer standard 40 hour shift jobs than there will be employees that need to be accommodated within the 40 or 50 mile radius.
  • Quasi-traditional full-time assigmments   Quasi-traditional full-time assignments will have between 40 and 44 hours guaranteed per week, between 6 and 10 hours on a given day and work  performed at one or more facilities on different days    So a full time clerk could work at more than one retail facility on different days as long as the different facilities are within the 40 or 50 mile radius agreed to in the contract.  Their  work schedule could include the following: 5 eight-hour shifts, 4 ten-hour shifts; 2 six-hour and 3-10 hour shifts, as well as any combination of shifts between 6 and 10 hours such that the total number of hours in a week is between 40 and 44 and no shift is less than 6 hours and no shift is more than 10 hours.  Also a clerk may work in a plant on heavy days and shift to a station or branch on days that there is less volume to process..
  • Non-traditional full time assignments.  Employees can choose a non-traditional full time assignment.  They are similar to quasi-traditional but allow even more flexibility in scheduling as the total number of hours in the week can range between 30 and 48 hours and shifts can be as short as 4 hours and as long as 12 hours.   Employees who choose non-traditioanl assignments will have fewer hours during slower months in the summer and more hours in heavy mailing season between September and December. 
  • Shift Craft  Clerks wanting to stay within the forty or fifty mile radius of the facility that is losing jobs will have the option to shift craft and work as a letter carrier.   (It was unclear from what Postmaster General Donahoe said whether the shift is only letter carriers but includes rural carriers as well.
  • Transfer beyond 40 miles.  If no jobs exist within the 40 or 50 mile radius an employee may find that his only employment option with the Postal Service is a job that is in a city more than 50 miles away.   
The list of options suggests that the number of traditional full-time assignments and quasi-traditional full-time assignments may be less than the number of employees that the number of employees within a 40 mile radius prior to consolidation.  The Postal Service expects that some clerks will voluntarily take a non-traditional full-time assignment willingly, decide to move to the facility that is now processing the mail or transfer to a different craft to ensure that any employee that wants a job within the 40 mile radius will find one.   In addition, the Postal Service expects that some employees will decide to retire or find other employment as was the case in LIma Ohio when operatins were consolidated into the Toledo plant around 80 miles away.  


The new 40 mile rule combined with the new definitions of full time (i.e. quasi-traditional, and non-traditional) will give the Postal Service significantly greater flexibilty to deal with scheduling employees whose current work is no longer needed.   The total number of employees required to fill staffing needs will be fewer.  If a significant number of employees voluntarilly take a non-traditional full-time position, they could provide better retail services and speedier mail processing during the heaviest mailing periods without needing to hire seasonal employees.   Without having seen any of the Postal Service's scheduling models, the changes suggest that

For Postal Service Employees, the new quasi-traditional and non-traditional full time positions create more opportunities for them to find a job close to the plant that is losing its mail processing operations and therefore it is an improvement over the current contract during periods of consolidation and declining volumes.   Employees should realize that the agreement did not change the fact that some employees will still not find jobs within 40 miles and and their options will remain similar to what now exists under the current contract.  

Both the APWU and the Postal Service are going to have to work together to help employees supervisors, and Postal management handle the transition to a world where schedules are no longer the same every day and employees are working at more than one facility during a week.   This is a big change that will take some getting used to and cooperation will be needed to ensure that misunderstandings are minimized. 

Update 3/4/11 5:07 pm

The APWU in its most recent set of questions and answers about the contract confirms my understanding that the Postal Service will be setting up non-traditional full-time assignments that will be attractive to employees currently working in a traditional full-time assignment.  (This is what is described above as a quasi-traditional full time position.)

Question: Can traditional full- time assignments (eight-hour days, five days per week) be converted to non-traditional assignments?

Answer: Management can repost occupied traditional full-time assignments as non-traditional assignments as service needs require; however, in doing so, management will have to make certain that the new assignments are attractive enough so that somebody bids them. No current full-time employee can be involuntarily assigned to an assignment of less than 40 hours or more than 44 hours in a service week.

The same set of questions and answers suggests that many employees will prefer a non-traditional full time position if it allows them to continue to work close to home.
Question: I was excessed in 2009 and moved 200 miles from home. Can I get back home with the new 30-hour job? I have been looking on eReasign for two years.

Answer: Any new or vacant full-time assignments (traditional or non-traditional) created in your home office will have to be posted for bid. Provided you exercised your retreat rights and continue to maintain them, you will be eligible to return to any posted vacancy based on your seniority.

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