Part time workforce
Throughout the country the labor movement is showing more signs of life and vitality. The UPS strike, called by the Teamsters, brought the attention of labor and corporate forces colliding. The major issues are labor's movement toward opposing increases in part time workers, and the corporate contention that it needs to lower costs to compete in a global economy. The goal of the labor movement is to improve workers' lifestyle. Managment's goal is cost cutting which could eventually drag the working American's lifestyle toward the level of a third world standard of living. Corporations save cost if they pay you less. In the end, the corporations compete with each other to survive. And the unions mobilize for solidarity to compete for the wealth that both labor and the company produce.
When the strike at UPS was called, the company's response was a massive campaign to discredit the credibility of the union and its president. The intent was to divide the workforce, and misinform the public. If the company can make the workforce compete with each other, than the solidarity and strength of the union can be weakened, when bargaining with management. While competition in the market place is good for companies to gain market shares, competition during contract negotiations, among craft employees, breaks the solidarity and strength of the bargaining power to face management.
During national contract negotiations in November of 1998 the NALC and USPS will be trying to hammer out an agreement. According to an USPS employment statistic from accounting period 4 of 1997, the full-time letter carriers, throughout the country, are at 83%. The part time flexes are at 13%, the TE's at 2%, and casuals at 2%. Only the letter carriers have this high percentage of full time workers in the USPS. The clerks and mailhandlers are at 61% and 67% respectively. The rural carriers, what management would like us to be, is at 47% according to this USPS reporting.
One of management's goals, could be, to increase this two-tier workforce. It lowers the company costs, and further divides the workforce, so we will compete with each other on the workfloor. When we compete with each other, solidarity can be weakened.
Some PTF's in the USPS wonder if the union has abandoned them, because it is taking such a long time to become a regular during this period of downsizing. They also feel it takes too long for the pay increases, and too many years get to the top pay level.
Through out its history, the NALC has fought management's efforts to increase the percentage of PTFs, casuals and TEs. If it were left up to management, only the managers would be full time, with everyone else part time. The numbers show of the past NALC success, in the company, and the industry. I feel the next big battle during national negotiations, besides the forth bundle, pay raises and safety conditions will be the PTF issue. Management will probably attempt to increase the PTF work force similar to the clerks, mail handlers or the rural carriers. They may try to further increase the number of years to get to top pay or have less pay increase.
The key to the contract negotiations will be the unity of all union employees, part time and full time to rise above management's attempts to divide. PTFs need to become active now and vocal in the union, to not only keep what they have, but to gain more. They should inform the union leadership their concerns.
Most workers in the U.S., and the USPS, are fed up with management's attempts to work us harder for less, so a few in management can get their bonuses. The best way to show support for the union's efforts, to better the workplace is to become active in the union. Get involved. Come up with ideas to fight workfloor injustices to make your place better. Get into the unity of union with fresh, new and vitalized efforts for change toward unified positive goals, so that we all benefit.
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