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Sweeping new USPS proposals draw union ire

Unions reacted with anger to U.S. Postal Service proposals to move employees out of federal health and benefits plans, and open the door to the layoff of thousands of employees.

Unions say the U.S. Postal Service has sent congressional lawmakers proposals to move USPS employees out of federal health and benefits plans, and pave the way for the layoff of thousands of employees.

Employee groups said one of two white papers USPS sent lawmakers asks Congress to allow the Postal Service to create its own health plan outside the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program — and to let the agency create its own pension plan separate from the Federal Employees Retirement System and Civil Service Retirement System. The other asks Congress to void the layoff protection provisions of various postal labor contracts.

According to a report in The Washington Post, which had obtained copies of the documents, USPS said it needed to bypass the layoff provisions because it must cut back its workforce by 120,000 career slots by 2015. That number is above an expected reduction of 100,000 employees through attrition over the period, the paper said.

“We believe both programs can be administered more cost effectively than the current federal plans we now participate in,” USPS said in a “mandatory standup talk” to employees. “We also believe we can best protect our employees’ and retirees’ interests by managing these funds ourselves. This will help our financial position, and increase the Postal Service’s stability.”

Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said that although the stand-up talk claimed postal unions had been briefed on the proposals, “the reality is quite different.”

“The USPS developed their plans without any discussion or negotiation with NALC or any of the other unions,” Rolando said. “Not surprisingly, the health and pension proposals would dramatically cut employee benefits below those earned by other federal employees. Let me be clear: We would never agree to any benefit plan unilaterally designed by postal management.”

NALC’s contract negotiations with USPS formally begin on Aug. 18. Rolando said the new proposals “constitute a transparent attempt to gut our benefits and reduce our bargaining rights without negotiation.”

Other unions were equally firm in their opposition.

“The APWU will vehemently oppose any attempt to destroy the collective bargaining rights of postal employees or tamper with our recently-negotiated contract,” said American Postal Workers Union President Cliff Guffey of the proposals. “Crushing postal workers and slashing service will not solve the Postal Service’s financial crisis.”

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