Have you been pivoted due to undertime lately?

July/August 2002

By Lili Buencamino, Executive Vice President
Branch #214

"Undertime" is a term management uses when the workload on a carrier's route is theoretically less than eight hours on any given day. Management describes "undertime" as volume driven, meaning that a route is usually "undertime" when its total caseable mail volume falls below the route's "base" volume. "Base" volume is the amount of caseable mail a route must receive in order for the regular carrier to do the route in eight hours.

Linear volume not acceptable
"Base" volume is calculated from the route's last inspection data and should be listed in the carrier route book on the PS Form 1564A. However, this figure may be inaccurate if the route has not been inspected within the last year or two. Furthermore, our union does not recognize linear measurement or counting mail by volume in determining workload and /or work hours.

Carriers who have "undertime" on their routes are usually "pivoted" on to other assignments. "Pivoting" is a term used by management when requiring a carrier to work on another assignment in addition to his/her bid assignment for the amount of "undertime" on that carrier's assignment. When a carrier is "pivoted" he/she is authorized to work only eight hours despite having to finish his/her own assignment then part of another assignment.

"Undertime" is also predicated on a route's "leaving time". "Leaving time" is the time by which a carrier must leave the office to begin delivering in order to do the route in eight hours. It is also calculated from the route's last inspection data but may also be inaccurate if the route has not been inspected recently. Although "leaving time" is often ignored by management when pertaining to "undertime", it is instrumental in determining whether "undertime" is legitimate. For example, if a route's leaving time is 10:30am and the carrier is pulled down and ready to deliver mail by 10:00am, management can assert that this carrier has 30 minutes of legitimate undertime and may pivothim/her for 30 minutes. On the other hand, it is improper for management to assert that a carrier with 10:30am leaving time has "undertime" if that carrier has not yet received the last dispatch of mail, has not yet pulled down, and it is already 10:15am. In this case, the simple arithmetic would conclude that this carrierwill have no "undertime" and may need overtime even though that day's volume may be less than the route's "base volume".

Don't skip lunch and breaks Many carriers to not know how to deal with "undertime". They buy into management's "mail volume" theory and run their routes sacrificing their lunch and breaks to finish their assignments within the authorized eight hours. Meanwhile, management is glad that these carriers have bought into the concept of "undertime" and are on their way to showing their assignments to be less than eight hours on a regular basis. Management does not care that these carriers are sacrificing their breaks to finish their assignments.

There is a management strategy behind "undertime" and it may be coming soon to your station. You see, if management can document that a route consistenly has "undertime" it can successfully prove that this route is less than eight hours. then management can justify doing a minor adjustment to the route by adding to it to make it eight hours again. Before we know it, auxiliary and residual routes may be absorbed into those routes inaccurately documented as less than eight hours.

Artificial undertime In fact, to achieve this end, sometimes management will create "undertime" on a route by instructing the carrier to curtail mail. If this occurs, that carrier should request from his/her supervisor a curtailment slip
The union's position has always been to determine workload/work hours by counting total pieces of mail, not volume, as described in the Carrier's Duties & Responsibilites handbook, M-41 section 121. Carrier's should not so easily believe management's positionthat caseable mail volume solely determines their workload and work hours. There are so many oher (new) carrier duties, not yet mentioned in the M-41, that may not necessarily impact their office time but would greatly impact their delivery time. These duties are ignored by management hence leading to many disputes between carrier and supervisor over whether the carrier has "undertime".

The best way to handle these types of dispute is for carriers to complete and submit PS Form 3996 requesting overtime or auxiliary assistance if being pivoted due to undertime would require them to work overtime. Carriers should always request from management copies of their completed PS Form 3996's and 1571's to keep for their records. These forms help document the amount of time needed to complete a route. These forms would protect the route from accusations of being less than eight hours. In fact, these forms may establish a route to be over eight hours and help qualify it for a special route inspection.

Asking for overtime
As a rule, 3996's should be submitted approximately 1.5 hours before the carrier's scheduled leaving time. The carrier submitting the 3996 should consider the following factors in determining how much to request:
1) scheduled leaving time; 2) the amount of remaining caseable mail; 3) the number of other related duties yet to perform and estimated time for these duties; 4) the estimated pulldown time (as per the M-41 pull-down time is calculated at 70 pieces per minute); 5) the number of mark-up mail pieces (as per M-41 time allowance is calculated at 4 pieces per minute); 6) the number of change of address entries (2 minutes each including Form 3546, recorded on Forms 1564B and 3982 as per the M-41); 7) extra time for handling full coverages (marriage mail) during street duties; 8) scanning MSP (managed service points); 9) scanning delivery confirmation pieces, express mail pieces, accountable items; 10) the number of parcels beyond the average from the last route inspection; and 11) the amount of DPS mail (as per pre-arb settlement 10/21/98 M-01366, MRS '98).

If management still insist on "pivoting" the carrier after receiving the 3996, the carrier should follow instructions but make sure any overtime he/she will eventually work is AUTHORIZED to avoid disciplinary action. Then the carrier should file a grievance for being forced to work off assignment overtime (unless it is an ODL carrier) and/or for management placing unreasonable expectations on him/her. A carrier should not sacrifice or skip their lunch and/or break under any circumstances. Doing so would reduce a route's time by up to 40-50 minutes (if both breaks and lunch were skipped) and document the route time as less than eight hours. It would also indicate to management that the carrier could do the route in less than eight hours daily.

The most effective way to deal with "undertime" is for carriers to do everything by the book, exercise their contractual rights, and not be persuaded into believing that mail volume drives their workload and work hours.

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