USPS puts cuts to labor on bargaining table

Thursday - 8/18/2011, 7:51pm EDT

By Emily Kopp
Reporter
Federal News Radio

The Postal Service and its biggest unions are gearing up for a battle as they begin contract negotiations today.

The agency said last week it wanted to consider laying off 120,000 workers over the next three years and taking control of its health care and retirement plans.

Both changes would require Congress to change the law and overstep current collective bargaining agreements.

"Wages and benefits for all employees represent nearly 80 percent of our costs," said USPS chief human resources officer Anthony Vegliante in a press release. "To remain solvent, we must negotiate contracts that address our total labor costs and enable us to downsize quickly to adjust to America's changing mailing needs while being fair to our customers and employees."

The Postal Service begins talks today with the National Association of Letter Carriers. Contract negotiations with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union will begin Aug. 30.

Together, the two unions represent nearly half of the Postal Service's 560,000 career employees.

"We're open to negotiation on all the issues," NALC president Fred Rolando told Federal News Radio last week. He said that would include Article 6, which contains lay-off protections.

The union's current contract expires on Nov. 20.

The Postal Service aims to accomplish savings similar to those it got in May, when it renegotiated with the American Postal Workers Union, which represents 200,000 employees.

The two sides agreed on a two-year wage freeze, to defer cost of living adjustments, to establish a new career pay schedule that is 10 percent lower than previously and to require employees to pay a greater share of their health care costs. The agency estimates the APWU contract will save it more than $3.8 billion over four years.

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