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The March 24 consultative meeting via Zoom was in conjunction with the spring NAPS Executive Board meeting; all board members were present. Representing the Postal Service were Bruce Nicholson and James Timmons, Labor Relations Policy Administration.
Agenda Item #1
NAPS asked the USPS to adjust the hiring process for craft employees. NAPS contends changes are needed to address the shortages created by an imperfect hiring process, leading to excess overtime, grievances, employee retention issues and negative impact to TOE (total operating expense). Results also include EAS staffing imbalances based on SWCs and increased stress and dissatisfaction among EAS employees.
Fast Track Hiring was implemented in 2019 to increase the efficiency of the hiring process, which was reduced by over 18 days. It also corrected issues related to background screening that were being routinely skipped at the local level, ensuring safety and security for all employees. Over 260,000 new hires were completed last year through the Fast Track Hiring process to address all emergency hiring needs.
This process is continually reviewed by Human Resources to identify opportunities to make any improvements that could reduce the overall time to hire. A pilot began in 2020 specific to RCA hiring in several districts. It was intended to reduce the time to hire by eliminating applicants from consideration that either did not entirely understand the requirements of the position or no longer were interested in the position.
The pilot did not yield intended results and was stopped to be reevaluated. Local Services can assist managers in the hiring process by modifying and designing job application templates to communicate individual needs of an office and providing lists of applicants for each requisition.
COVID-19 has contributed to delays at local courthouses and other municipalities when the SF-85, “Background Check,” is flagged and additional action is required. The SF-85 cannot be bypassed.
Multiple initiatives are being conducted at USPS Headquarters and dedicated to retention of non-career employees, specific to non-careers in each craft, and includes training, first 60/90 days’ experience and further strategies to improve and expedite the hiring process. NAPS’ resident officers will be contacted once these initiatives are further developed for feedback and to solicit participation.
The Postal Service welcomes NAPS’ participation in developing and improving the hiring process. The analysis provided by NAPS is helpful and will be discussed in those forums. Improving retention of recent hires will require fewer hiring activities and provide supervisors and managers with a consistent workforce to develop.
Agenda Item #2
NAPS requested procedural guidance from USPS Headquarters on addressing Hostile Work Environment, district reasonable accommodation
(DRAC), Human Resources manager (HRM) and Labor Relations issues. What position title is the USPS point of contact at the district and area levels?
The process for addressing Hostile Work Environment, DRAC, HRM and Labor Relations issues has not changed. Any employee who has concerns related to any of these issues should continue to report them through their current chain of command; each will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
The point of contact at the district and area levels is unchanged. The 67 departments of district Labor Relations and district Human Resources managers still exist and are providing support to the former 67 districts, with former geographic boundaries, and to Mail Processing, Logistics, etc. The recent announcement on the 50 districts only is for the Delivery and Retail component.
As outlined in Chief Human Resources Officer Isaac Cronkhite’s Aug. 18, 2020, memo, district HR managers will report to the area HR manager/director under the vice president, Employee Resource Management. District Labor Relations managers will report to area Labor Relations under the vice president, Labor Relations.
Agenda Item #3
NAPS has been made aware that paperwork provided at ELM 650 mediations when no agreement is reached and what is stipulated in the ELM are conflicting. In the provided agreement to mediate, NAPS notes that Form K says employees can appeal by the traditional appeal, which is in writing/and or in-person. In comparison, Form L reads the appeal only can be in writing, which follows the ELM.
NAPS requested that the language in both forms L and K reflect the employee’s opportunity to appeal both in writing and/or in-person if no resolution is reached in an ELM 650 mediation. NAPS further requested that this opportunity be reflected in changes to ELM sections 652.53 and 652.54.
Change from: If no resolution is reached between the employee and the proposing official as a result of the mediation, the employee may submit written responses to the proposed letter of warning in lieu of a time–off suspension within 10 calendar days of the mediation to the deciding official.
Change to: If no resolution is reached between the employee and the proposing official as a result of the mediation, the employee may submit in the traditional written and/or verbal response to the proposed letter of warning in lieu of a time-off suspension within 10 calendar days of the mediation to the deciding official.
Change from: If no resolution is reached between the employee and the proposing official as a result of the mediation, the employee may submit written responses to the proposed adverse action within 10 calendar days of the mediation to the deciding official.
Change to: If no resolution is reached between the employee and the proposing official as a result of the mediation, the employee may submit in the traditional written and/or verbal response to the proposed adverse action within 10 calendar days of the mediation to the deciding official.
NAPS contends these changes afford the member the opportunity to personally demonstrate their value as a member of their management team by allowing them to meet with the deciding official.
The mediation process is an alternative to the traditional appeal process. An employee has an opportunity to appeal verbally, with a mediator, to the proposing official. If unresolved in mediation, the employee still is given an opportunity to submit a written appeal to the deciding official.
Form K has been revised, based on NAPS’ input, to provide more clarity to the employee regarding options if no agreement is reached in mediation and to be consistent with the language in Form L and ELM 652.53 and 652.54.
Agenda Item #4
NAPS asked for clarification on how the USPS plans to apply any losing and gaining facility protocols under the recently announced district realignment.
Example: Mid-America and Gateway districts have been eliminated. They now are called Kansas and Missouri. As in this scenario, NAPS would like to know who will be the incumbent employees to these two new districts. Someone could go on a technicality and say, “Well, they don’t have a Gateway either, so what employees should be gone?” For instance, having two HR managers now, someone has to go.
NAPS would like to know and better understand who the incumbent employees are in the district realignment for all districts.
A reduction-in-force (RIF) isn’t implemented solely based on one facility remaining in place and one going away. Also, there were multiple changes in reporting relationships as a result of the Aug. 7 announcement. When work is moved from one organization to another, we assess whether there is a transfer of function.
A transfer of function takes place when a function ceases in one competitive area and moves to one or more other competitive areas that do not perform the function at the time of transfer. Positions are under review, as well as incumbents, in all district positions and will be completed prior to any announcement of a RIF. Once that information is known, a briefing will be provided to NAPS.
Agenda Item #5
NAPS contends the hiring process is failing; something has to be done. In the field, before hiring, we no longer have initial contact with a candidate to question them and explain in detail what the job entails. We need to get back to an interview process and more fully describe the job so people understand they are not initially career. Retention starts with hiring, for the most part.
The initial interview and meeting the applicant were the most important aspects for most managers in the field. Most applicants see a job with the Postal Service and think it is the easiest because they lack knowledge of the job’s essential aspects because the job videos are not the best.
Methods of communicating information to potential applicants regarding the work associated with a posted job is under development. Presently, realistic job preview videos are provided to applicants. Also, the virtual entry assessment discusses real-life scenarios related to the work a new hire would be performing; candidates are provided written descriptions of the type of work for which they are applying before fingerprinting.
This allows an opportunity to review and ask additional questions, if necessary, at the actual appointment by the applicant or the manager. Material to include job postings can be customized by Local Services based on an office’s specific or unique needs; i.e., approximate hours expected. Keep in mind that adding an interview with a local manager adds, on average, 10 more days to the hiring process.
Agenda Item #6
NAPS requested the date the Office of Personal Management (OPM) approved the voluntary early retirement (VER) process for the USPS.
OPM approved USPS VER authority for its non-bargaining population on Sept. 16, 2020, for the period Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021.
Agenda Item #7
NAPS indicated it would like to better understand why the Postal Service set the dates in a short time-frame turnaround for employees to make a life decision that affects them and their entire family. NAPS requested the VER be set after the RIF is announced.
A second VER offering was announced and was specific to NAPS’ concerns. The second VER for eligible employees will have an option to retire effective July 31. This second offering provides employees an opportunity to see jobs available and learn of any new assignments after organizational changes are implemented in May. The first VER will allow additional opportunities to place impacted employees in vacated assignments.
Agenda Item #8
NAPS requested a briefing to know and better understand the USPS RIF-avoidance process plans timelines in order to be aware of any other short periods in the process.
NAPS’ concern is that employees were allowed to request and approved to go on details to learn job responsibilities in the past. NAPS presumes the target group of this pending RIF is for administrative personnel.
NAPS also contends that, for the most part, vacancies are in Customer Service operations. If an employee never has worked in that environment, a detail will be beneficial to an impacted EAS employee.
NAPS wants to know how the USPS plans to ensure these impacted EAS employees have the opportunities needed to gain knowledge, skills and abilities in a functional area in which some may never have worked to become minimally qualified, while continuing necessary support functions to the district.
A RIF timeline has not been developed and will be put together once the consultation process has concluded with NAPS on the organizational changes. The RIF timeline will be provided and discussed with NAPS in advance of the restructure announcement in May.
The RIF timeline will allow time for various repositioning tactics, including voluntary early retirement, limited area of consideration job postings, lateral requests, downgrade requests and more. The Postal Service will work closely with NAPS officials in identifying impacted employees and help those employees secure landing spots.
Employees already are eligible to request detail assignments to positions in which they are interested to gain new experiences and help facilitate placement.
Agenda Item #9
NAPS has received questions from the field based on comments by managers in town hall meetings where it was stated that, if an employee has received a PFP non-contributor at any time within the past three years, that employee will be RIFed. NAPS requested a briefing on the USPS RIF process, step by step.
This statement is inaccurate. Reassigning employees and reduction-in-force policies can be found in ELM 354. The regulatory requirements governing reduction in force are contained in Title 5, “Code of Federal Regulations,” Part 351. Federal agencies must follow the procedures contained in the Code of Federal Regulations when conducting a RIF.
The law provides that OPM’s RIF regulations must give effect to four factors in releasing employees: tenure of employment (e.g., type of appointment), veterans’ preference, length of service and performance ratings. When an agency must abolish positions, the RIF regulations determine whether an employee keeps their present position or they have the right to a different position.
NAPS and its Executive Board will be provided a briefing on these procedures before finalizing the recently announced organizational changes and before the announcement of a RIF.