Week 1 with FSS
Well, we are officially carrying FSS mail now - and OH - WHAT A THRILL IT IS! The first thing I noticed was how colorful the equipment is. The racks are a really beautiful shade of purple and the trays a brilliant yellow. It's just like looking at a rainbow! The racks have 3 shelves and the top shelf has handles you squeeze that will lower the font end down to you for pulling out the beautiful yellow trays - which are about 2/3 the size of our normal hard trays. The stacking of the trays in hampers is a chore because, of their short size, they are prone to tipping over really easily. I'm using parcels as supports to help this not happen. There is a paper posted on the end of one of the racks that tells the carrier which rack(s) hold their mail. You round it all up and load to the hamper trying not to spill any trays.
Of course not all the flats or letters make it through the FSS or DPS machines so we have mail to case the good old fashioned way. I'm getting about 1.5' of flats at my case each morning and about a foot of letters. We case this mail up and then we put our spurs into the case as well. This mail is then pulled and trayed - a mix of letters, flats, and spurs. Load that mail, DPS and FSS mail into the hamper and it's out the door. Old established break times are a thing of the past and we're negotiating how the breaks will be handled. Most of us prefer to keep our morning break in the office simply because that's our time together and has been for many years. Right now we're working 45 minutes and taking a break.
The street sucks under this system. It's nothing but an accident waiting to happen. I'm mounted and the twisting and bending that COULD be required to deliver the mail is quite excessive. Twist bend for the DPS, twist bend for the FSS and twist bend for the cased mail and spurs. My back won't take this for long so I'm gonna' play by my rules. The system I've worked out at this time is that I have my DPS mail on the rack positioned closest to the rear compartment. I grab a handful of it, pike thought it and then stand the handful up on end in the tray. I then reach over with my left hand, while keeping my back against the seat - no twisting, and pike one handed through the FSS mail - which is in the center spot. I put this with the DPS mail and then reach forward to the cased/spur mail tray and take anything from there is needed. No twisting or bending for that either. Point of interest - I have mail for nearly every stop in the cased/spur tray. One reach to the mailbox, both hands on the wheel and off to the next box. It's not very fast but I am not going to destroy my back anymore than I already have for this company.
The pretty yellow trays don't hold as much mail requiring you to dismount and reload more frequently. They also have high ridges in the bottom that make pulling the flats forward as the tray empties difficult. Once again - more back strain.
I really feel for the walkers under this system. We've (management and union) agreed at this point that on days when there is a fourth bundle that walkers will be allowed to fuse their cased mail with the FSS mail. This will take place on the street not in the office.* But even with three bundles this is going to be a real mess for them. My thoughts on them at this time is to carry the DPS and cased mail in one hand like we used to do and work the FSS mail out of the bag. There is no requirement to carry mail on the arm and even if there was walkers would likely leave a trail of mail behind them because there are letters mixed in the FSS mail that would be constantly falling out. It's not like the letters are first on top for a stop - they are just mingled in where ever they landed during the sort. So, you pull a flat off your arm and a letter goes flying. Nice. I've not yet gotten any input from the walkers as we've only been at this for 2 days now. They need some time to try and figure out how to make it work. Regardless of what solution is used it's going to be a real pain in the ass all the way around for them.
Side note - I expect that the Oriental Trading Company will see a sharp drop in their orders from the Liberty area because all we had of their catalog was the front cover. It's hard to order the item on the cover that says "see page 5" when there is no page 5. Or 6, or 7, or 8, etc.
There will clearly be some time savings for the USPS under this system but not what they think it's going to be. It's slower on the street - no matter what method you choose to use. I've not been under the system long enough to pin down how much time is saved but I would guess about 45 minutes on my route. I believe that this time savings will eventually be offset by OWCP claims. It's been my experience that most - not all - letter carrier injuries happen on the street and if folks are out on the street longer then logic dictates that injuries will increase.
I know this statement will sound redundant but I truly believe that the way to handle FSS is to case it in. On the first day they had us case it in order to check and make sure the line of travel was correct and it goes in pretty quickly. If a carrier pikes down and gets all the flats for one stop and puts it in the case it's pretty snappy. What wouldn't work is a carrier pulling one flat at a time, casing it in and milking it for all it's worth. I say this because I really do see some serious safety issues here for all of us. Whether the USPS likes it or not they do have a responsibility to each and every one of us in regards to our safety and well being in the workplace. I realize it will never happen - local management has already shown their concern for our safety over FSS. We had a stand up the day after we took FSS in all it's glory to the street and I told the PM that this system was going to very hard on our backs. Others agreed and said as much. Her response was "take it up with the union at the National level as they had agreed to this" - which they did not. I replied that I thought I was taking it up with someone who should care and she just turned her back and walked away. This pissed off every craft employee in the station. Her total lack of concern for our well being was made clearly evident to all who were there. The casing of FSS mail would still give the USPS time savings and it would also go a long way in saving the health of their allegedly "valued" employees.
There needs to be some sort of a trade off here. It's fine to get some time savings but not to the detriment of your employees.
* See MOU, M-01691
Week 2 with FSS
They are doing 3999's on us next Wednesday - supposedly bringing in a management type for each route. What's that tell you? Then 2 weeks after that they are doing a full count and inspection. They say they aren't going to adjust the routes until after the first of the year but if adjustments are to be made we would rather just have them done instead of fighting over pivoting time each day.
None of the Liberty walkers work out of the back of their trucks that I know of. They put their relays in trays and have them in the rack in the front of the vehicle. They fuse the mail while sitting in the driver’s seat. In the summer it gives them a break from the heat with a little fan action and in the winter they can get a little heat and warm up a bit. Or per m-01691 they can choose to do this in the office. We are going to let that be the carriers choice - and if it was me I'd choose the street. From what we've seen so far it would be much more efficient to do it on the street as opposed to the office. Fusing in the office will be a complete pain in the ass. Moving trays around incessantly and moving mail from one tray to another as they fill up is a complete waste of my time and USPS money. I know that some will disagree with this and say just take the time and do it in the office. That will be up to the individual carrier. Remember - fusing will only happen on days where there is a fourth bundle.
We had Red Plums Wednesday and they made for a horrendous day. Your like a chicken with it's head cut off looking around at DPS, FSS, cased mail, ADVO's, spurs, parcels –
As far as the twisting and bending goes, the system I've worked out seems to work fairly well in keeping the strain off my back. It took a little getting used to but I'm adjusting. It's not just my back - several other carriers are complaining about it and have told me that they have to stop several times a day and get out to stretch their backs. I'm no longer delivering mail from the FSS (Freaking Stupid System) yellow trays. I'm taking an empty hard 2' tray with me to the street and I'm transferring the FSS flats into it. It takes about 30 seconds to do this and I can get nearly 2 of the yellow trays into one of the hard trays. This saves me time and aggravation in the long run due to the fact that I don't have to dismount and do all the things that come with that nearly as often.
FSS has cost me a lot of space in the cargo hold of my FFV and when the Christmas parcels hit it's going to be an even bigger pain. I'm taking out more hard trays under this system than I did before. Couple that with the yellow FSS trays - averaging 4 of those a day - and the vehicle fills up pretty quickly. There is a learning curve to this system and I'm (we) are still getting it figured out but there's not a whole lot a carrier can do but deal with it and try to make accommodations that will make it work best for them.
I'm going to have to adjust my original "time savings" estimate down from 45 minutes to 30 minutes. After carrying this stuff for a few more days it appears that 30 minutes is more reasonable.