A National Labor Relations Board official has dismissed a U.S. Postal Service petition which postal workers union officials had charged was designed deliberately to delay contract talks affecting 578,000 USPS workers.

The petition, filed April 17 by Postmaster General William F. Bolger, led to the postponement of negotiations that were to begin April 22. The postal talks are the largest labor-management negotiations scheduled this year in terms of workers represented.

Union officials said Thursday that upon learning of the ruling by Louis J. D'Amico, NLRB acting regional director, they contacted USPS officials and urged them to come to the bargaining table immediately.

"We're humble in our victory, and we're ready to start negotiations right now," said Morris (Moe) Biller, president of the 310,000-member American Postal Workers Union.

However, Bolger said he would appeal D'Amico's ruling before the full NLRB panel -- which normally consists of five members but currently has two vacancies.

The postmaster argued in his petition that the current bargaining structure is "unworkable" because the APWU and the 190,000-member National Association of Letter Carriers are seeking to bargain separately from the smaller Mail Handlers Union and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association. Also, the larger groups are trying to take over the smaller units, "increasing rivalry and dissension" that could complicate bargaining further, Bolger said.

Accordingly, Bolger asked the NLRB to determine the "appropriate" bargaining structure under which negotiations should be conducted.