Monday, December 10, 2012

Postal Service can't charge Union for ergonomics information request

Arbitrator Shyman Das has upheld a grievance filed by the APWU, finding that the Postal Service violated its cba by requiring the Union to pay for information requested in connection with a Joint Union Management Committees. The cba created a Joint Labor Management Safety Committee and a Joint Labor Management Ergonomics Committee, with a purpose "to evaluate and make recommendations on all aspects of the Employer's respective Safety and Ergonomics Programs, to include program adequacy, field implementation, studies for improving the work environment, training, and unsafe conditions."

A dispute arose between the parties concerning a Union request for information in connection with certain ergonomics issues. The Union alleged that the Postal Service breached its obligations under the contractual joint committee language by demanding that the Union pay
the costs incurred in responding to the Union's request. After addressing other issues raised by the Union's grievance, Arbitrator Das addressed the payment issue. In finding the Postal Service's position inconsistent with its contractual commitments the Arbitrator noted:

The remaining issue concerns payment by the Union for information it requested from the Postal Service. As the Postal Service asserts, the provision in Article 31.3 which permits the Postal Service to require the Union to reimburse it for costs incurred in obtaining information it requests to carry out its responsibilities as bargaining representative does not carve out an exception for information relating to safety and health or Article 14 issues. Nor does Article 14 expressly address payment for information requested by the Union. But charging the Union for information it reasonably requests in good faith to fulfill its joint role and obligations under Article 14 in relation to issues before the National Ergonomics Committee is not consistent with the overall structure and tenor of Article 14.  Moreover, the Postal Service did not present specific evidence contradicting Bell's testimony that the Union historically has not been charged for such information. Accordingly, the Postal Service is directed to provide information reasonably requested by the Union in good faith to fulfill its role and obligations under Article 14 in relation to issues before the National Ergonomics Committee without exacting payment therefor. (footnote omitted).

APWU links to Arbitrator Das' award here.

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