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Contract Arbitration Between USPS & Rural Letter Carriers

Tuesday, July, 10, 2012


The United States Postal Service and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association recently looked to contract arbitration to settle their disputes. A 3-person panel, led by arbitrator Jack Clarke, was chosen to handle the situation after the two parties failed to come to an agreement.

 

The arbitration is considered legally binding, and will affect the working conditions and pay rate of NRLCA members.


What the Contract Arbitration Means for Letter Carriers

 

What does the decision mean for the letter carriers' union? Many are claiming it to be a mixed blessing.

 

The NRLCA will get certain cost of living adjustments—but not yet. There is a freeze on that for the next year. But the adjustments are set to eventually happen.

 

And while no current employees will have to take a pay cut, there won't be any general employee-wide raises for the next two years. After that, however, letter carriers can expect their wages to go up a total of 3.5% during the time of the contract.

 

In addition, new employees will start out at a lesser rate ($16.87) than what they have been. All workers will also be expected to shoulder more of their health insurance costs.

 

The representative from NRLCA liked some of the decision but dissented on other parts. The USPS was not completely happy, either, however.


USPS Compares Arbitration to Bankruptcy

 

The Postal Service likened the arbitration agreement to "a restructuring in Bankruptcy." Arbitrator Clarke disagreed. He claimed that only Congress can address the Postal Service's mission, budget, etc. The job of arbitration, he said, was to address the concerns between the USPS and its workers.


What Was the Basis for the Arbitration Panel's Decision?

 

The panel looked to the 2010-2015 contract between the USPS and the American Postal Workers' Union to help it hammer out its decision with the NRLCA.

 

The CFO of the postal service argued that the USPS had deteriorated since that time, and that the APWU should not be used as a model. The board did not agree, and based many of its decisions off of that contract. As the USPS is in negotiation with unions representing other workers as well, it may expect to see similar contract arbitration decisions in the future.