APWU Meets With Federal Task Force Considering Changes to USPS

Web News Article #:

55-2018

06/08/2018

On Tuesday, June 6, APWU President Mark Dimondstein, joined by Legislative and Political Director Judy Beard, Manager of Negotiation Support and Special Projects Phil Tabbita, along with other APWU representatives, met with the White House Task Force on the Postal Service. The task force was presented with a series of union recommendations and supporting materials on how the USPS could improve services, become more financially stable, and continue to remain a treasured public institution offering universal service to all citizens, regardless of where they live or work.

President Trump created the task force In April, as APWU reported at that time. It is being led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Jeff Pons and and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney. The President’s executive order charged the task force with evaluating and reporting on the operations and finances of the United States Postal Service, such as pricing, policies and the costs of the workforce. Its report, which is to contain legislative and executive proposals, is due by August 10.

The executive order is modeled after one President George W. Bush issued in 2002 and came after President Trump released a series of tweets critical of the U.S. Postal Service’s relationship with Amazon. Even more controversial than the Bush-era executive order, Trump said the task force should examine the obligation to provide universal service “in light of changes in technology, e-commerce, marketing practices and customer needs.”

“In our discussions with the task force we spoke some plain truths about what the U.S. Postal Service needs and what it doesn’t,” said Beard. “We also shared materials that we had developed in coordination with other postal unions.”

Among those plain truths:

  • The U.S. Postal Service’s unparalleled national network fulfills the Founders’ directive to bind the nation together, providing affordable, universal service unlike any private entity.
  • The U.S. Postal Service’s workforce represents the nation’s largest civilian employment of veterans, and our work enables a $1.4 trillion dollar mailing industry employing 7.5 million American workers.
  • The U.S. Postal Service operates without a dime of taxpayer money, but Washington’s political malpractice has put it in a financial bind – crushed by a scheme to pre-fund years of retiree healthcare benefits, a burden that no other agency or company must bear.
  • The U.S. Postal Service has already undergone dramatic restructuring since the Great Recession. The U.S. Postal Service has eliminated 200,000 career positions, closed or consolidated hundreds of mail processing facilities, dramatically slowed the mail with lowered service standards, and reduced the hours of operations at 13,000 primarily rural post offices (some as few as two hours a day). APWU emphasized to the task force that USPS managers have cut to the bone and the U.S. Postal Service and its workforce should not be cut further. APWU’s representatives called for a full restoration of service standards that were diminished in 2012.
  • The U.S. Postal Service cannot cut its way to profitability. However, by addressing the congressionally-manufactured prefunding crisis, setting appropriate postage rates, and properly accounting and investing postal funds, USPS can generate the necessary capital to fulfill its obligations, replace its aging vehicle fleet, and provide quality service to the American people.

APWU has joined with other postal unions in developing briefing materials and policy recommendations to present to the task force. While each postal union is meeting with the task force independently, collectively the American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association represent more than half a million postal employees who are dedicated to providing affordable service to all Americans, no matter where they live.

As President Dimondstein stated in a recent guest commentary in The Boston Globe,  “Postal workers and millions and millions of customers certainly hope that the task force created by the executive order has as its starting point a sincere commitment to helping the Postal Service thrive. However, if the task force proves to be a smokescreen to promote the postal privatization agenda of the likes of the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute and their billionaire benefactors’ efforts to turn the common good over to private profiteers, then postal workers will be on the front lines fighting back, united with our communities and the people of this country, to ensure a vibrant public postal service for many generations to come.”

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WARNING! Voluntary Early Retirement has Potential Side Effects APWU

WARNING! Voluntary Early Retirement has Potential Side Effects
Web News Article #:
6-2018
01/11/2018 – The Voluntary Early Retirement (VER) recently announced for eligible Clerk Craft employees by the Postal Service has generated many questions from the members of the APWU. The Postal Service published a list of 93 questions and answers shared with our members in an earlier Web article.

Many are asking, “Should I accept early-out retirement?” It is not the place of the national APWU to give advice on whether to retire or not. That is a personal decision. However, it is decision with implications that members should know and consider.

USPS management did not discuss the VER with the APWU in advance of the announcement. APWU national officers initiated a January 10 meeting with postal management to address issues and concerns about the VER including why the VER was not offered to all crafts, the need to halt all plans for excessing in light of the VER and the process in place for retirement counseling. Management has committed to respond to the APWU’s questions which we will share with the membership as received.  In this meeting, the union also pressed its views that:

the Postal Service is not overstaffed, and service to the public is suffering due to understaffing; and,
if the Postal Service moves forward with misguided plans to reduce the workforce, the Postal Service should offer a monetary incentive for those eligible for regular retirement as well employees eligible for an early-out.
Incentives have been offered numerous times in the past for both bargaining unit and supervisory employees.

If you are eligible for the VER, the USPS will be mailing you a packet on January 12th. The packet will have vital information about your opportunity for an early-out. The packet will include your annuity estimate (this is not a guarantee of what your annuity payments will be; OPM makes the final determination of your annuity, and it could be different than the estimated amount provided in your packet) and information about available benefits including eligibility, limits, and costs.  Anyone considering the early-out offer needs to study the packet.

You are eligible for USPS-sponsored retirement counseling – both group and individual.  Information on who to contact and how to arrange counseling will be in the packet. The packet along with your counseling session(s) will explain eligibility for any annuity supplement, your health insurance premiums, how your FEGLI life insurance can change, and other issues.  According to a previous grievance settlement with the APWU, local management must arrange a reasonably private space for employees who wish to receive individual counseling on the clock. Your spouse can participate in the counseling session(s). Take advantage of every opportunity to learn the specifics about your retirement benefits.

Some points to consider when making your decision:

As of now there is no financial incentive to retire early, unlike the 2009 and 2012 VERAs, where incentives were negotiated with the APWU.
In its August 22, 2017 request to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for VERA approval, the Postal Service said that 10,522 APWU represented employees will shortly be “impacted” by “differing personnel actions” and “repositioning initiatives.”
The Postal Service estimates that only 1,712 of the 10,522 APWU represented employees will accept the VER.
Those who apply for the early-out will see financial/income impacts, including:
If you are an employee covered by CSRS, you will have your annuity reduced by 2% for each year you are under age 55.
If you are covered by FERS, you will only earn 1% of your salary as an annuity for each year worked (e.g. if you worked 20 years, your annuity will be 20% of your high-3 average salary).
If you are under the Minimum Retirement Age (MRA), you will not receive the Social Security Supplement until you reach the MRA. Find your MRA using this OPM Chart. FERS is a three-legged stool: a modest annuity, social security, and retirement savings in TSP.  If under normal conditions, you retire after reaching the MRA but are not yet eligible for Social Security, you receive an “annuity supplement” to provide that social security leg until you reach the age of sixty-two (62) An “early-out” is different; so, for example, if you are age 50 and your MRA is 57 you will not receive the supplement until you turn age 57.
You will not receive Cost of Living Allowances (COLAs) on your annuity until you reach MRA.
With an early retirement you can’t make additional contributions to TSP or receive employer contributions as you would with continued employment.
TSP withdrawal restrictions are not eased for those accepting a VERA.
Your life insurance coverage (FEGLI) may change.  The amounts of coverage may decrease and the costs (if you continue coverage) will likely rise.
Your health insurance premiums will increase if you currently are covered by the Consumer Driven APWU health plan.
Make your decision on complete and accurate information about your retirement benefits.  Postal management has verbally committed to the union that they have no intention of capping the number of employees who can take this VER offer, so there should be no need to rush your decision.

The APWU will continue to share important information on the VER. If you are having trouble getting USPS-provided counselling, you can call the APWU Retirement Department at (877) 279-8669.

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