With many lengthy disputes that are eventually settled, differences between parties sometimes linger. That seems to be the case with the 40-year-old dispute between Postal Service management and labor over the number of hours a postmaster or supervisor can spend performing work typically reserved for bargaining unit employees. In late 2014, the Postal Service and the American Postal Workers Union reached a settlement in the 1970s case that capped that number at 15 per week.

Under the agreement, once management workers exceed 15 hours, the Postal Service pays the corresponding hourly wages to a clerk identified by the union as eligible for the payment. The Postal Service makes the payment even if the clerk was on leave during the time the work is performed.

Our recent management advisory report found postmasters and supervisors worked 830,000 hours over the threshold in the first 9 months after the agreement was reached. This cost the Postal Service $11.2 million in payments to clerks. In some instances, payments were significant – the single largest payment to an individual clerk was $23,900 for work a postmaster or supervisor did. The payments occurred in more than 90 percent of Postal Service districts.

Postmasters and supervisors performed an excessive number of hours of bargaining unit work for a range of reasons, such as: vacant clerk positions that took months to fill, worksharing between clerks and postmasters, and clerks detailed to other facilities, thereby creating staff shortages at their assigned facilities.

While we found management reduced these payments in the first half of this fiscal year (2016), postal management still “did not effectively manage workhours for postmasters and supervisors performing bargaining unit work to ensure they complied with the agreement and controlled costs.”

We recommended the Postal Service monitor vacancies so management is not doing more than 15 hours a week of bargaining unit work. We also urged management to continue providing guidance to field offices to promote compliance with the agreement. Finally, we recommended the Postal Service communicate to postmasters and supervisors that payments are not automatic; rather, payments should be reviewed to determine whether they are affected by emergencies and extenuating circumstances.

Comments (4)

  • anon

    Yes, this is certainly something you have to look at. It is so important to cut these kinds of costs that can be prevented ÔÇô but of course it is difficult when you have competing interests at stake. But it is essential for Americans to know that money is not being wasted. I believe that so long as the reason is fair and just, money should be paid, but that money should not be wasted on inefficiency.

    Jun 22, 2016
  • anon

    Wow, to have such impressive titles, you people are sure out of touch. Let me tell you how it really works. Clerks PLAN to cause understaffing, whether by sickness or other ways of being unavailable. One example is multiple offices that loan to each other being required to approve vacation for ALL their clerks on the SAME days--therefore having no one in any office to work and no one to loan to anyone else who has no one to work. So guess who HAS to do the work? Not who WANTS to do the work? Management. This was the most stupid agreement ever made--to pay an employee for management doing craft work if that employee is not available and has actually CAUSED the situation? Secondly, the way the "hours" are measured. A manager can log onto the computer to complete sales transactions, say for lunch or long lines and spend (for example) 30 minutes doing this job. Then they are not needed again until 4 hours later for another 30 minutes. The most recent agreement counts the ENTIRE time--from log on to log out-- as their craft work. In this instance the manager would have actually worked one hour but would have been charged five hours. How is this an accurate way to measure or a fair way of compensating someone who has been "harmed"? Last but not least are the rules about what size offices the temporary employees can work in and whether or not they can work the window, causing the before mentioned problem. Those being compensated are loving it!!! They are having their cake and eating it too--take off, get paid leave, and get paid again for not doing the work. Instead of reporting on it, are you going to fix it?

    Jun 08, 2016
  • anon

    Now we know one of the reasons why the USPS is awash in red ink. People are standing in line for clerk jobs, yet managers are doing their work because they can't find time to hire clerks. They can't find time to hire because they are too busy filling the jobs themselves. And we are ultimately the ones who wind up paying clerks for work they never performed as well as overpaying managers for doing clerk work. Postal rates continue to climb while service continues to decline. A classic lesion in how not to run a business.

    Jun 04, 2016
  • anon

    I filed a complaint with the OIG about an issue with delivery. Packages stopped being delivered when I tried to bring to the attention of the local OIC. That the new or sub carriers were putting the packages over my chain link gate directly in the middle instead of to the side behind a solid white plastic fence out of the eyes of the public. Thus avoiding the possibility of theft or damage. Instead of correcting the problem, my delivery for large packages that would not fit in the box was stopped. Citing carrier injury or dog assault. All the time the packages have been delivered to this address the same way for 10 or so years with no problems. Now it seems rules and regulations must be followed but not for everyone only me. The carrier on my route actually delivers to many addresses the same way also drives onto the sidewalk to deliver mail to boxes placed incorrectly. Keep in mind I was a postal employee (Postmaster) for 41 years having done every job in the service. Notice I said service, the only thing the USPS has to sell. I believe I am being singled out and being treated vindictively. And am finding out that people with authority are not responsive to customer needs. Consumer affairs called me and said they would research and call me back. Never called, they sent me a letter upholding a decision not based on past practice. Luckily I receive my insulin in large styrofoam containers via UPS. Because UPS, Fedex, DHL etc all deliver to my address and even put plastic bags on parcels if it looks like rain. This is gross misconduct of management personnel. Carriers as a rule go out of there way for customers, it's only when management supersedes that a problem develops. Having worked for the USPS i know that nothing will be settled within the organization, I will have to take it outside. Having retired in 2011 my wife just retired in May from this very facility, I fear there is no one left who works for service.

    Jun 02, 2016

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