U.S. Postal Service:

Little Progress Made in Addressing Persistent Labor-Management Problems

T-GGD-98-7: Published: Nov 4, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 1997.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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GAO discussed its report on the efforts of the Postal Service, the four major labor unions, and the three management associations to improve employee working conditions and overall labor-management relations, focusing on: (1) the extent to which the Postal Service, the four unions, and the three management associations have progressed in addressing persistent labor-management relations problems since GAO's 1994 report was issued; (2) the implementation of various improvement efforts, or initiatives, some of which were intended to help these eight organizations deal with problems identified in the 1994 report; and (3) approaches that might help the eight organizations improve labor-management relations.

GAO noted that: (1) little progress has been made in improving persistent labor-management relations problems at the Postal Service since 1994; (2) although the Postal Service, the four major unions, and the three management associations generally agreed that improvements were needed, they have been unable to agree on common approaches to solving such problems; (3) these parties have not been able to implement GAO's recommendation to establish a framework agreement that would outline common goals and strategies to set the stage for improving the postal work environment; (4) in a recent report, GAO described some improvement initiatives that many postal, union, and management association officials believed held promise for making a difference in the labor-management relations climate; (5) despite actions taken to implement such initiatives, little information was available to measure results, as some initiatives: (a) had only recently been piloted or implemented; or (b) were not fully implemented or had been discontinued because postal, union, and management association officials disagreed on the approaches used to implement the initiatives or on their usefulness in making improvements; (6) efforts to resolve persistent labor-management relations problems pose an enormous challenge for the Postal Service and its unions and management associations; (7) with assistance from a third-party facilitator, the Postal Service and leaders from the four unions and the three management associations convened a summit, aimed at providing an opportunity for all the parties to work toward reaching agreement on how best to address persistent labor-management relations problems; (8) another such opportunity involves the strategic plan required by the Government Performance and Results Act, which can provide a foundation for all major postal stakeholders to participate in defining common goals and identifying strategies to be used to achieve these goals; (9) a proposal was included in pending postal reform legislation to establish a presidentially appointed commission that could recommend improvements; (10) GAO continues to believe that it is important for the eight organizations to agree on appropriate strategies for addressing labor-management relations problems; (11) various approaches exist that can be used to help the organizations attain consensus; and (12) without such consensus, the ability to sustain lasting improvements in the postal work environment may be difficult to achieve.

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