U.S. Postal Service:

Little Progress Made in Addressing Persistent Labor-Management Problems

GGD-98-1: Published: Oct 1, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 2, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Postal Service's (USPS) efforts to improve employee working conditions and the overall performance of the Service, focusing on: (1) the status and results of the Postal Service's efforts in improving various labor-management relations problems identified in GAO's 1994 report, including how USPS implemented specific improvement initiatives; and (2) approaches that could help USPS and its four labor unions and three management associations achieve consensus on how to deal with the problems GAO discussed in its 1994 report.

GAO noted that: (1) little progress has been made in improving the persistent labor-management relations problems that had, in many instances, resulted from autocratic management styles, the sometimes adversarial attitudes of employees, unions, and management, and an inappropriate and inadequate performance management system; (2) these problems have generally contributed to a sometimes contentious work environment and lower productivity for USPS; (3) also, the number of employee grievances not settled at the first 2 steps of the grievance process has increased from around 65,000 in fiscal year (FY) 1994 to almost 90,000 in FY 1996; (4) these problems continue to plague USPS in part because the parties involved, including USPS, the four major labor unions, and the three management associations, cannot agree on common approaches for addressing the problems; (5) this inability to reach agreement has prevented USPS and the other seven organizations from implementing GAO's recommendation to develop a framework agreement that would outline common objectives and strategies for addressing labor-management relations problems and improving the postal workroom climate; (6) since 1994, USPS and its unions and management associations have tried to improve the climate of the postal workplace by implementing specific improvement initiatives; (7) many postal, union, and management association officials told GAO that they believed some of these initiatives held promise for making a positive difference in the labor-management climate; (8) however, GAO's review of specific improvement initiative showed that although some actions had been taken to implement certain initiatives, little information was available to measure their results; (9) in some instances, the initiatives were only recently piloted or implemented, and some had been discontinued; (10) in other instances, although postal and union officials agreed that improvements were needed, they disagreed on approaches for implementing specific initiatives; (11) generally, these disagreements have made it difficult for USPS and its unions and management associations to move forward and work together to ensure that the initiatives' intended improvements could be achieved; and (12) with the significant future challenges it faces to compete in a fast-moving communications marketplace, USPS can ill afford to be burdened with long-standing labor-management relations problems.

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