(This article was first published in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of the American Postal Worker)
In an effort to be proactive and understand firsthand how the union contract’s per diem provisions were being implemented, APWU headquarters maintenance officers traveled to the National Center for Employee Development (NCED) on Nov. 8, 2022, to speak directly with students. The officers also met with the Postal Service to bring students’ concerns to their attention and work towards resolutions.
During our site visit, we learned the following:
- A lack of reasonable seating inside for students who chose to order food delivery and groceries.
- Aramark chose to price 3 Squares buffet meals beyond the Government Services Administration (GSA) per diem.
- Insufficient pre-arrival communication to students about how to acquire advance per diem.
- Some employees were incorrectly advised that the usage of travel cards was mandatory.
After discussing our concerns about the lack of sufficient seating, the Postal Service said that students can consume delivery food in the Pony Express seating area (until it closes each day), outside in the courtyard area, or in their rooms. In addition, the Postal Service is reviewing the use of another seating area inside the hotel for students to eat food purchased outside the NCED. We will continue to monitor this issue and work towards an acceptable response.
Food choices and GSA Per Diem
You have choices of where and when to eat: The current GSA per diem for Norman, OK is $59 (subject to change). You have the option to eat at the following locations:
GP 405, Hotel Building – Bar and Lounge. Dine-in, a la carte. Dinner service only.
Gift Shop, Hotel Building – Starbucks, grab and go snacks, sandwiches, salads, and beverages. Open every day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Pony Express, Main Learning Center – Grab and Go marketplace featuring salads, sandwiches, snacks, pastries, frozen items, bottled beverages, and coffee. Open Monday – Friday, breakfast and lunch only.
Vending machines with snacks and beverages are also located throughout the property.
3 Squares Buffet, Hotel Building: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
UberEATS, Door Dash, Instacart will deliver food with a nominal delivery charge.
The Postal Service intends to review and analyze trends over the next three months to consider implementing additional 3 Squares dining discounts (purchasing a meal plan for the duration of the training at a discounted rate).
The current per diem rates are set by the GSA, and that Aramark sets their own prices. Neither are negotiated by the unions. We believe that it is unacceptable for the 3 Squares buffet meals to be priced above the current per diem, and we will continue to meet with the Postal Service to get the issue resolved.
An issue that came up was that some postal officials incorrectly informed students that they were required to get receipts for all of their meals. This is not true. There is no dispute at the national level that receipts for food are either necessary or required in order to receive a full per diem. We urged the Postal Service to send out an update notifying management at the local and district level that food receipts are not required.
Another issue that arose was that some postal officials attempted to mandate that students receive and use a travel credit card for their per diem. This is also untrue. Travel credit cards are an option for the student, not a requirement.
If you have any per diem or other related questions, do not hesitate to reach out to your National Business Agents. Together, we can attempt to resolve any local or district issues expeditiously. Rest assured that we are addressing your concerns as they are being brought to our attention.
We wish you and your family a Happy Holiday Season!