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Postal workers cry foul about cuts in hours

USPS attempting to keep costs down

POSTED: November 22, 2011 12:18 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/

A group pickets in front of the Flowery Branch Post Office Monday afternoon. They said they are being replaced by nonskilled workers and their hours are being cut.

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Off-duty U.S. postal workers were out to deliver a different kind of message on Monday outside the Flowery Branch Post Office.

Picketing with brightly colored signs, a handful of postal employees charged that their supervisors were violating union contracts by cutting back their hours and hiring “unskilled” employees in their place.

Susanne Clary, a 30-year postal veteran, said the cuts are having a real financial impact for her — causing her to face foreclosure.

“It’s just killing me,” Clary said. “I’m in the process of losing my home because my pay has been reduced by 30 percent per month.”

Five picketers stood on the sidewalk off Atlanta Highway in front of the post office at noon on Monday.

Their signs, which they fought to hold steady against gusty winds, called for the U.S. Postal Service to honor a recent union agreement, which they claimed the Flowery Branch office and others across the country were breaching.

Postal workers Clary, Debbi Creekbaum, and their local union president, Jennifer Parker, were joined by members of their families.

Since the protesters weren’t authorized to stand near the post office entrance, their interaction with customers dropping off mail and buying stamps was limited. Some passing drivers honked, while others offered support or critique. One simply shot them the bird.

Clary said there were also a few people who walked up to them to ask why they were picketing.

The American Postal Workers Union, which represents postal clerks, maintenance staff and vehicle workers, ratified a new agreement with the USPS in May.

That agreement changed employees like Clary and Creekbaum’s job classification from part-time flexible employees to nontraditional full-time employees. While Clary semantically became a full-time employee, she said in practice her hours dropped from around 40 per week down to 30.

In place of her hours, new “noncareer” employees, who get paid less and don’t get benefits, were hired, she said. The protesters said dropping their hours only to hire new employees violated the union agreement.

Supervisors at the Flowery Branch Post Office said they didn’t have authorization to speak to the media about the complaints.

Michael Miles, a spokesman for the USPS Atlanta district, said he did not know the specifics of the Flowery Branch complaints. So he could not directly address their charges of union agreement breaches.

Broadly speaking, he said, the new contract guaranteed full-time employees 30 hours of work. He said that guarantee probably helps a lot of union employees get more hours. However, he said, it’s conceivable that some employees who worked more than 30 hours could see their hours reduce.

“Like a lot of other organizations, we are looking to reduce labor costs,” Miles said.

The USPS is in the midst of addressing steep losses and trying to regain profitability. In the last fiscal year, the Postal Service posted a $5.1 billion loss, according to its website.

Miles said the strategy is to seek “flexibility with its workforce to match the work load.” That strategy was in accordance to the latest contract, Miles said, and is not designed to “come at the expense of many full-time employees.”

Miles said if postal employees feel like their branch is in violation of the agreement, they can file a union grievance, which if successful would compensate their losses.



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