- About Us
- Legislative Center
- Contact Us
Ensuring Members Have Options in a RIF
By Ivan D. Butts
NAPS National President
Change is the only constant” means change is the only thing constantly present in our lives. This quote by Greek philosopher Heraclitus explains that life cannot go on without change.
From the beginning of our lives, we experience change from conception to birth. Our environment changes from a fluid-filled space to a world filled with air.
Humans are created to embrace change and grow in its presence. But people often grow very comfortable in their spaces that provide comfort and security. Thus, we weaken ourselves and our mindsets and become resistant to change. At the same time, we need change to move forward.
On June 2, the USPS announced the latest reduction in force (RIF) in the 13 Logistics Divisions, which impacts 235 EAS employees who received general notices of RIF with “No Best Offer.” The effective RIF date is Sept. 8, 2023.
This organizational change raises some challenging questions. Why were EAS positions in the Logistics silo continually posted and filled as late as two weeks before the announced RIF? Why would the USPS continue to post and place EAS employees in positions they knew would be RIF’ed as of Feb. 7, 2023?
NAPS contends this sentence, “Implementation of these changes as proposed may result in employee impacts requiring a reduction in force to be administered,” does not constitute consultation with NAPS. Additionally, this vague statement of a possibility does not constitute implementation of NAPS’ rights under 39 U.S. Code § 1004(b) “to participate directly in the planning and development of pay policies and schedules, fringe benefit programs, and other programs relating to supervisory and other managerial employees.”
In the 2022 organizational change, we saw EAS employees with veterans’ preference being assigned at the beginning of the USPS process. Some were assigned to identical EAS positions crisscrossed over state lines with each other; others were moved beyond the maximum commuting distance. Employees were left doing the work the chaos and disruption caused as a result of the USPS and the algorithms it could not get right.
Guidance issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for other federal agencies suggests points designed to minimize disruption during a RIF:
1. The RIF is so disruptive to the organization it may require more extensive outplacement efforts than a reorganization within a division, which may result in a few involuntary reductions in grade.
2. Does management need to reduce whole numbers as in “across-the-board cuts,” or is there the possibility of reshaping specific organizational functions? There typically is less disruption to an organization when specific functions are reshaped than when entire operations are closed.
3. Retraining as a tool to increase the voluntary attrition of employees in excess positions to other positions includes training and development to close skills gaps and to give an employee the knowledge and skills leading to another occupation. By retraining these proven employees into a related or even a new line of work, the agency can most efficiently resolve significant present or projected skills gaps in its workforce. Retraining benfits include minimizing disruption to the work environment and building workforce morale, particularly when the agency uses retraining as an alternative to involuntary separations and demotions from downsizing.
4. The HRO should emphasize to agency management and members of its RIF-related teams that effective counseling is critical to minimize disruption resulting from the agency’s RIF.
While we can debate how well the USPS fares in minimizing disruption in its RIF process, what we hear from OPM on oversight is the USPS gets a broad degree of latitude in running its organizational changes. The frustration that leaves NAPS with up-to-the-last-minute efforts to ensure everyone who wishes to continue working at the USPS can do so is the process that is supposed to minimize the RIF.
The ELM 354.23 lists 11 different strategies the USPS can consider in any combination it desires:
“To minimize or avoid the impact of a RIF, Human Resources, in coordination with the business function, may implement some or all the following actions:
a. Freeze hiring and promotion actions.
b. Separate contract employees, temporary employees, and reemployed annuitants.
c. Reassign employees:
1. To vacant positions in the same competitive area or other competitive areas.
2. To positions within or outside the commuting area. This may be voluntary (e.g., where an employee has responded to a vacancy announcement) or directed by management.
Note: Reassignments are not subject to RIF procedures when employees are involuntarily placed into same-level positions.
d. Cancel all detail and temporary promotion PS Forms 50, Notification of Personnel Action.
e. Terminate probationary employees.
f. Approve employee requests to voluntarily change to vacant positions at lower grades within the competitive area, including bargaining positions.
g. Provide voluntary resignation incentives.
h. Obtain approval from OPM to offer a voluntary early retirement option.
i. Provide voluntary early retirement incentives.
j. When circumstances warrant, implement other RIF avoidance measures, provided such measures comply with regulations and, if appropriate, the applicable collective bargaining agreements.”
As you read, the numerous options cause confusion when different combinations are used from one organizational change to the next—not to mention the USPS changed the definition of a competitive area in 2021 from the Finance number to the operational function, further complicating the process.
Regardless, these obstacles will not deter NAPS Headquarters from continually monitoring all organizational changes to ensure our members have every opportunity to continue working for America’s Postal Service.
In solidarity …