Wednesday, October 16, 2013

CCA Uniform Program Update

The City Carrier Assistant (CCA) uniform program certainly has had its trials and tribulations. From a vendor’s viewpoint, this process of getting CCA’s into uniforms has been very challenging. We have heard from a lot of very frustrated City Carrier Assistants who are having trouble getting their uniforms. Before delving into what the problems are, and more importantly what some of the possible solutions are, let me review some background on the program.

In early 2013, the new labor contract was set by the Das interest arbitration board. Under this NALC-USPS National Agreement that covers the years 2011-2016, CCA’s are to get a $390 uniform allowance in 2013. Details can be found at the NALC website, specifically in M-01822 and M-01819.

The USPS decided that instead of issuing the Citibank Visa uniform allowance debit cards to these non-career employees, they were instead going to use a voucher program. I am not sure of the reason, but I heard that it was because of the expense of issuing the cards. I think if the USPS looked back and was able to quantify the time spent by the managers and OIC’s doing the paperwork, including all the back and forth with the managers, CCA’s and the uniform companies, they might reconsider this voucher method as being the most cost effective.

At Postal Uniform Discounters we are one of the leading providers of CCA postal uniforms and have some perspective on the program from the vendor’s side and the CCA side (as we are constantly getting feedback). I have spoken with many of our competitors about the various issues and procedures, and it seems that most uniform companies will not ship the uniforms until they receive definite confirmation of payment. One of the reasons is the experience that the postal uniform companies had getting paid under the old Transitional Employeee (TE) uniform program. One of the larger vendors said that they wouldn’t even participate in the CCA program as they were still owed money going back three years for the TE’s. The main reason for not shipping without some type of payment information in hand (like a credit card number or confirmation that the manager will apply for a check to be issued) is the confusion among the management about how to pay these invoices. Although it seems to get better by the day, there is still way too much confusion out there about how the program works.

We normally can get an order out of here within a couple of days, but the CCA uniform orders present many challenges that we don’t have with the regular career letter carrier orders that are paid by their USPS debit card. To get a better understanding, below is the procedure we (and I would guess, our competitors as well) have to go through before we can ship an order.

Once we receive the voucher ("Letter of Authorization") and the order from a CCA, we create an order on our computer. After that, we fax the voucher and the order to the station, and we call to see if the fax has been received. Unfortunately, a lot of post offices do not answer their phones at all, or the phone is constantly busy, or the manager is not there that day, etc., etc. Sometimes we get lucky and we get on right away with a cooperative, informed manager. In that case, we are able to ship the postal uniforms within a day or two. But that is the exception. Usually we have to try calling again, and again, and again. Sometimes it takes us weeks before we get through. We leave messages, but our calls are rarely returned. We fax again, asking the OIC to give us a call, but once again, that is usually ineffective. We mail, often certified, the vouchers and invoices to the manager’s attention asking them to give us a call, but, more often than not, get no response until we are able to reach them on the phone.

Once we get in touch with the manager, we are often able to get the process in motion. A couple of months ago, we were finding that most managers had no idea of how they were supposed to pay, but we are recently finding that more and more are now aware of the process. We are still educating many managers and often pass onto them what the form looks like and the USPS internal web address that they should go to for further explanation. Other issues we are running into are limits on the managers credit cards, managers who don't have a credit card yet and don't know how to submit the proper forms to get one, managers who don't have a card and don't know how to submit the paperwork to get a check issued, the signing manager has moved and the new manager wants no part of the process, and that the dog ate the paperwork (just kidding)!

Now that I've spoken of problems, here are some solutions. When submitting your order and voucher to a uniform vendor, try to get the issuing managers email address. This will help eliminate the phone and fax problem. And, yes, we have tried the mail, but we have found that the manager still doesn't call us back even after we write him a letter. So as contrary as using email seems to those involved with the health of the post office, (we insist on mailing all of our bills and receiving all of our bills by mail as our business is dependent on having uniformed postal employees), email seems to be the best way to communicate between the uniform vendors and the managers on this issue. Also, make a copy of the voucher and you can ask the uniform vendor to mail back a copy of your invoiced order. You can then take them to the manager yourself and request that they call the vendor with payment information. We often fax over the paperwork but when we call we are told, “I never got it.” By hand delivering the paperwork yourself, eliminates that reason or excuse. Call your uniform vendor right after taking the paperwork to the manager and let them know that it is now in hand. In our case, we would immediately follow that up with a phone call to that manager to discuss how and when they are going to pay for the uniforms. We think that by helping the company you ordered from get in touch with the manager, it will greatly increase your odds of getting your uniforms in a timely fashion.

So our apologies to all those CCA’s whom we have not been able to put into uniform as quickly as they or we would like, but this has been made very difficult by the ins and outs of the program. We appreciate your patience, and even if you did not order from us, we welcome you to call or write us with any questions you may have about the program. We have spent a lot of time reading, reviewing, and talking about it, and think that is why Postal Uniform Discounters is the leader in CCA uniforms.

Michele Ward
The Uniform Girl
Postal Uniform Discounters
1-800-733-1243

2 comments:

  1. I have been a CCa for 25 motnhs. I have yet to receive uniforms even after ordering them 2 times. Finally today I was given the authorization letter and I am going to attempt to place an order. Hopefully I will receive them before I become a regular carrier

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