Background

On December 5, 2014, the U.S. Postal Service reached a settlement with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) for $56 million, resolving a long-standing dispute dating back to the 1970s. This dispute involved the number of hours postmasters and supervisors could devote to bargaining unit work. Bargaining unit work is the work of career or non-career employees who are represented by a labor organization (union) that negotiates with the Postal Service for wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Prior to the settlement there were no established workhour limits.

In the settlement, the Postal Service agreed to pay bargaining unit employees if postmasters and supervisors at level 18 post offices performed more than 15 hours per week of bargaining unit work. Level 18 post offices are small to medium-sized facilities managed by postmasters paid at an Executive Administrative Schedule 18 level. Postmasters at level 18 facilities may remotely manage the operations of up to 10 post offices.

Postmasters and supervisors must record all hours spent performing bargaining unit work in an electronic web application and provide the information to the APWU. The APWU reviews the hours and identifies clerks eligible for payment when supervisory personnel exceed the 15 workhours per week limit. The Postal Service pays the identified clerk. Clerks are paid at the appropriate rate, which could include overtime or other forms of increased pay rates. Clerks are eligible to receive payment even if they were on leave when the violation occurred. These payments are additional to the clerk’s salary.

Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s management of workhours for postmasters and supervisors performing bargaining unit work.

What the OIG Found

The Postal Service did not effectively manage workhours for postmasters and supervisors performing bargaining unit work to ensure they complied with the agreement and controlled costs. Specifically, postmasters and supervisors exceeded the 15 workhours per week threshold by 829,484 hours from December 2014 through September 2015. As a result, the Postal Service made payments totaling about $11.2 million.

Our analysis of the payments showed that total payments made to the ten clerks who received the largest payment amounts ranged from $31,602 to $20,423, with the single largest individual payment being $23,899.

Payments were widespread, occurring in five of seven areas and 61 of 67 Postal Service districts. The Northern New England District paid over $1.4 million, which was the largest total payment made per district. Overall, these payments were made due to vacant clerk positions that took months to fill, worksharing between clerks and postmasters, clerks detailed to other facilities creating staff shortages at assigned facilities, or clerks detailed to supervisory positions instead of lead clerk positions.

Additionally, employees in three of the 61 districts used the wrong grievance code to process payments. The remaining six districts did not make any payments for the period reviewed.

Although the agreement for postmasters and supervisors performing bargaining unit work was effective December 5, 2014, officials did not provide training and launch the electronic web application for postmasters and supervisors to record their bargaining unit workhours until March 2015. Additionally, some postmasters and supervisors continued to assume all payments were automatic and did not realize they could evaluate situations to determine whether there were emergencies or extenuating circumstances that could impact payments.

Finally, officials in three districts that used the wrong code were not aware of the proper code to record workhours for postmasters and supervisors performing bargaining unit work until we brought it to their attention during the review.

To further identify and address systemic issues regarding postmasters and supervisors exceeding established limits for performing bargaining unit work, a cross-functional team met during the week of August 10, 2015, and created an action plan to address staffing shortages and developed tools to track and monitor bargaining unit workhours, including standard operating procedures for the payment process. Additionally, they provided detailed guidance for postmasters and supervisors to manage their bargaining unit workhours.

Due to management’s actions, the number of hours exceeding the 15 workhour per week threshold for postmasters and supervisors performing bargaining unit work decreased by 65 percent from October 1, 2015 to March 4, 2016. However, the Postal Service must continue to monitor staffing and workhours and payments and provide guidance to field offices to reduce the risk of making unnecessary and fraudulent payments.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended management continue to monitor vacancies and postmaster and supervisor workhours used to perform bargaining unit work and related payments. We also recommended they continue providing guidance to field offices to ensure they comply with the established agreement and communicate to postmasters and supervisors that situations due to emergencies or extenuating circumstances should be reviewed to determine the validity of payments.

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Comments (4)

  • anon

    With 34 years of postal experience including 8 postmaster positions (EAS -18 through PCES IV) and director of field operations (412 office reporting to me), I can tell you that a EAS -18 postmaster does not have one hour per day of administrative work to complete. Whoever agreed to this did not know much about how small post offices operate. This postmaster job is now going to be VERY BORING for the other 4 hours each day. Reducing window hours in small post offices, yes, I can agree to that, but to pay a postmaster to sit on his/her DUFF for 4 hours each day is ridiculous. What kind of a business are you running??????

    Aug 30, 2016
  • anon

    Perhaps you should make the total cost of all these grievances affect the pay raises of managers and above. Especially MCSO, Postmaster and POOMS. If you base their pay raises on service indicators that are hourly based especially specific hours such as CCA hours, SDO overtime hours they will continue to purposefully violate the contract and pay out on grievances so that their daily and weekly hours show what they want. It doesn't matter to these people that the Postal Service pays people for not working and ends up costing 5 and a half time the hourly rate to deliver mail as long at the categories of hours they care about are within their target. 1. We purposely send CCA's home or leave them home even though they are the lowest paid carriers and we are contractually supposed to work them and then we leave SDO overtime regulars on the OTDL list at home without even attempting to call them in. 2. Next we force out all non-OTDL off their assignments onto overtime and often into Penalty overtime. We claim we are trying to make our "dispatch of Value" or "Final Dispatch." Which we usually have no chance or no intention of making. This is a violation in and of itself the minute we plan to force off of assignment without attempting to use CCA's or OTDL SDO's. 3. Next we pay carriers who didn't want the overtime the time and half. 4. We then Pay the grievance to the OTDL that we should have brought in at a minimum of time and a half and often some penalty overtime. Also we have to pay for the EAS and labor representatives forworking the grievances and the union stewards for preparing and working the grievances at informal a. 5. We then have to give Administrative leave to the forced out carriers for all time worked off their assignment as we violated the contract purposefully. This is equal to another hour for hour of straight time. 6. We then usually end up paying more time and a half on the quarterly to the OTDL as the union can often show where the people lower on the list could have easily been brought in for equalization which is considered a separate type of grievance and not pyramiding. 7. Then we have to pay minimum of straight time to cover for the originally forced out non-Otdl when they take their admin leave. 8. This often starts the cycle again as we end up forcing out on the day they use their admin leave. So in perspective we pay easily 5.5 to 7.5 times hourly pay on purpose just to help certain people get better pay raises. None of this helps the Postal Service or its customers. Let alone make up for the frustration and hostility it causes its employees and supervisors on an almost constant basis. When the OIG was notified here in Arizona District they said they would prefer to stay more narrowly focused. While supervisors chase carriers for taking that extra 9 minute lunch we pay out easily $250-300 dollars an hour to deliver mail when we had the capability to pay 15-28 dollars and hour so that certain members of management can get that extra 2 dollars and hour pay raise. ALSO the previous comment about supervisors being forced to work for free is so spot on. Supervisors even if they were getting paid are the cheapest employee to higher members of management as their time does not show on the carrier and clerk hourly reports they care about. But T time for a supervisor is on someone's MPA also so you better not stay over your 8.5 hours or you will get that discipline they threaten for supervisor T time. If that bothers you call in an EEO and in 3 years if your lucky you might get your money for hours worked. Don't bother calling the OIG as they have said that if you work off the clock as a Eas 17 supervisor that's on you even if you are being threatened with discipline if you work over. The Oig agent stated we were doing the same to ourselves that craft employees do when they work off the clock and make their routes or jobs seem shorter or manageable. No body wants to look at the fact that all of us are working off the clock under threats and intimidation. Good luck to you All. Management will tell the OIG they will fix it and implement some type of Kaizan or lean six solution as window dressing and then just keep their threats a little quieter for a couple months. Haven't seen the OIG stop any obvious waste fraud or abuse in 12 years. So don't hold your breath this time.

    May 23, 2016
  • anon

    Perhaps you should look at how many hours non exempt supervisor are forced to work for free

    May 16, 2016
  • anon

    With 34 years postal experience, I have been a postmaster 8 times (EAS-18 through PCES IV) , a senior POOM, and director of field operations (412 office reporting). A level EAS-18 postmaster does not have over one hour administrative work per day. His/her job as postmaster is going to be VERY BORING for the other 4 hours each day. Whoever agreed to this does not know what the workload of this size office entails. I can agree to reducing window hours in some of the small towns, but this is ridiculous... I know in my old area it would have increased my workhours over 40,000 per year. What kind of business are YOU RUNNING?????

    Aug 30, 2016