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‘They Are Who We Thought They Were,’ Part Two
By Chuck Mulidore
In my February column, I wrote about the late football coach Dennis Green’s epic rant as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals after a particularly difficult loss to the Chicago Bears. Answering reporters’ questions about the loss, a visibly agitated Green pronounced about the Bears, “They are who we thought they were!”
I likened that rant from Coach Green to the fact-finding process that recently had concluded between NAPS and the USPS. Our side had carefully prepared and had clear arguments proving the failed EAS pay system needed to be replaced. The Postal Service came with PowerPoints, talking points and a poor defense as to why the Pay-for-Performance (PFP) program is a fair way to compensate EAS employees. This, even as thousands of EAS employees do not receive just raises in their pay each year.
The USPS merely showed up. They had no specific plan to defend their compensation system, likely because they did not believe they should have to. They also objected to NAPS being the only management organization with the nerve to question the pay process. NAPS played offense with precision and defense with skill. We were, and still are, prepared. They were, well, who we thought they were.
Now, as you know, the neutral panel of mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service issued its final report on April 30. The panel overwhelmingly sided with NAPS on all the core issues of contention that led to NAPS requesting—as it’s entitled to under law—fact-finding in the first place. NAPS was forced into this process by a Postal Service reticent to discuss its EAS compensation system. The agency also has been overly sensitive to criticism of a failed pay system that has left thousands of EAS employees without raises for the past several years. At the same time, every craft employee and senior postal executive enjoys raises, cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), step increases or bonuses.
The panel agreed with NAPS that the PFP system was “broken and counterproductive.” NAPS anticipated this strong endorsement of its positions on EAS compensation, supervisory differential with the craft, COLAs, locality pay and the broken PFP system—which provides neither pay nor performance—would provoke a response from the USPS. NAPS hoped that USPS leadership would take this moment to engage with us to seek to rectify these long-standing concerns. While we were hopeful, we also were realistic enough not to have been surprised by the USPS’ response, which essentially criticized the fact-finding panel for the conclusions it reached.
Basically, all three fact-finders found the Postal Service’s EAS pay package for FY16-19 violated the statutory requirements of Title 39 that EAS pay be comparable to the private sector, be sufficiently higher than the pay of clerks and carriers being supervised and be sufficient to attract and retain qualified supervisors and managers and maintain a well-motivated workforce.
The panel submitted its long-awaited conclusions to NAPS and the USPS on April 30. By statute, the Postal Service had 15 days to implement a pay decision for the 31,000 field EAS employees covered by these pay consultations. During that time, NAPS waited for the USPS to contact us to, perhaps, seek some new solutions to address the concerns of EAS employees, engage with us jointly to develop a process to replace the broken PFP system with a pay process that allows all EAS employees to receive regular pay increases and reward their hard work and dedication to the success of the Postal Service. Also, address our concerns about the pay differential with the craft employees we supervise and consider the need for COLAs in some form and locality pay for EAS employees who work in high cost-of-living areas.
These conversations could have been based on the outlines provided by the fact-finding panel. Unfortunately, the call from L’Enfant Plaza never came. Instead, on the 15th day, an email was sent by the Postal Service with an attachment that outlined the final USPS pay decision. So much for engagement. They are who we thought they were.
So now we move forward—not by choice, but by the need for justice and fairness. We now must set a foundation for the future that the Postal Service must consider for upcoming generations of managers, supervisors and postmasters. Thus, the conclusion of the fact-finding process is not the end—not for NAPS. Which, once again, takes me from the great football coach Dennis Green to the great statesman Winston Churchill, who said, as the tide began to slowly turn during World War II: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
The future awaits. Game on.