Negotiations On Postal Union Contracts Extended

The U.S. Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (NALC) and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, AFL-CIO (NPMHU) agreed to extend their negotiations deadline until midnight on Dec. 7, 2011.

Although the two union contracts expired Nov. 20, the two sides agreed to the extension.

The NALC represents more than 195,000 employees who work as letter carriers delivering mail primarily in urban areas. The NPMHU represents more than 45,000 employees who work in mail processing plants and Post Offices. Respectively, wages and benefits for NALC- and NPMHU-represented employees exceeded $15.7 billion and $3.5 billion last year. If a contract isn’t ironed out by midnight on Dec. 7, a third party could wind up determining contract terms and work rules for about 240,000 employees.

NALC President Fred Rolando said: “We have been working in good faith to hammer out a new contract and we hope that this extension will lead to an agreement that our members can enthusiastically ratify.”

Due to congressional laws, postal employees are not permitted to strike as they are considered an “essential service to the nation.”

Mail volume peaked in 2006 at 213 billion pieces. The effects of the shift to digital communications coupled with the impact of the recession resulted in mail volume sinking more than 20%, to 167.9 billion pieces last year. Over the last four fiscal years, the Postal Service reduced its size by 110,000 career positions and saved $12 billion in costs. Expenses, however, continue to exceed revenue in part due to an overstaffed workforce.

The Postal Service ended Fiscal Year 2011 with a net loss of $5.1 billion, compared to an $8.5 billion net loss the year before. The 2011 loss would have been about $10.6 billion had it not been for passage of legislation that postponed a congressionally mandated payment of $5.5 billion to pre-fund retiree health benefits.

To become financially stable, the Postal Service says it needs to cut about $20 billion in costs by 2015 – impacting its workforce. Pending legislation sits before Congress aimed at fixing the Postal Service’s financial situation.

The Postal Service successfully negotiated a contract with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) AFL-CIO that expires May 20, 2015. Negotiations with the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA), which expired Nov. 20, 2010, came to an impasse and will follow the current agreement until a third party determines the outcome of a new contract.