USPS ordered to halt overuse of temps

Unionized Portland-area Letter Carriers won big on Jan. 19 when an arbitrator ruled that local managers’ decision to make widespread use of temporary casual employees instead of full-time and part-time career employees was a violation of the national contract.

To make sure the Postal Service doesn’t benefit from its violation, arbitrator Jonathan Monat ordered monetary damages that could go over a half-million dollars. The amount is based on the difference between the total wages paid to the temps and the total cost of wages and benefits that would have been paid to the career employees, who are union members.

Career employees make $17 an hour plus benefits, while temps earn $11 an hour.

It’s not clear how the damages will be distributed, but it’s likely that the union, National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82, will divide the amount among its members in some way, said Union President L.C. Hansen.

The arbitrator’s decision also meant termination for the approximately 45 casual employees by the end of January, though they could presumably apply for any new positions. Casuals are not members of the union.

The national contract allows management to hire temps but only in “unusual or emergency situations,” when there’s a temporary work load that can’t be handled by the regular workforce. Temps are capped at 5 percent of the workforce.

Starting in October 2002, Portland-area U.S. Postal Service management hired casual employees instead of career employees even as 23 career letter carrier positions were approved but not filled. Over a two-year period, the number of casuals increased five-fold while the number of career employees declined 5 percent.

Hansen filed multiple grievances, and decided to pursue them all the way to arbitration because she felt many of her part-time members could have been made full-time if it weren’t for the overuse of temps.

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