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| Postal Service proposes easier path to closing U.S. Offices
Mar 29, 2010. The U.S. Postal Service, which projects it will reach its $15 billion borrowing cap by the end of September, wants to make it easier to close some of its 31,871 post offices for economic reasons. Read full story
| Explaining the Postal Service's job cuts
Mar 24, 2010. The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday is expected to detail how it plans to cut about 7,500 administrative positions.
Postal officials previously announced plans to cut the 7,500 positions in January, and Thursday’s announcement clarifies which positions are impacted.
The job cuts are expected to impact about 2,000 postmasters — the folks who manage individual post offices — and another 5,500 supervisors and administrative staffers. Cutting postmasters is especially noteworthy, because it will likely prompt USPS to close the post offices they operate.
Though 7,500 seems like an impressive figure, remember the Postal Service still has about 520,000 full-time workers; another 234,000 employees left in the last decade on their own volition or through early-retirement incentive programs.
On average, about 22,500 postal workers leave the mail agency each year by retiring or finding another job, according to USPS. Layoffs are rare and in most cases, contractually prohibited. (A tentative deal with one of its largest labor unions however would allow USPS to lay off some workers in the future if necessary.)
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe has said his goal is to have 30,000 fewer employees working for the Postal Service by the end of its fiscal year in September by using the 7,500 layoffs and the estimated 22,500 departures.
Thursday’s anticipated announcement is especially significant, because USPS is using layoffs for the first time since posting the historic financial losses of recent years.
Close readers may recall two weeks ago when The Federal Eye and others raised concerns with stories by two federal news outlets who breathlessly reported “Exclusive” news that Donahoe “plans to cut” 30,000 positions. (Updated version of the stories, which you can read at the links in the previous sentence, are much less dramatic than before.) The concern stemmed from characterizations of this exchange during a Federal Times editorial board meeting with Donahoe:
EDITOR 1: But the end of 2011, how many fewer carriers do you expect to have? (Emphasis added by The Eye: Using “carriers” is inaccurate, because any cuts would impact all postal employees, not just carriers.)
MR. DONAHOE: By the end of 2011, our goal for 2011 is a headcount reduction of 30,000 people.
EDITOR 1: Which includes the 7,500?
MR. DONAHOE: Yeah, yeah.
EDITOR 2: And that’s FY11?
MR. DONAHOE: Yeah. We’ll make that.
EDITOR 3: And how are you going to do that? Is it, are you planning buyouts or early retirements or further RIFs or just attrition?
MR. DONAHOE: Some with attrition. The interesting thing is, and this is, this is why, one of the things that we’ve been trying – the point we’ve been trying to make on the six to five is critical because you have an opportunity now to resolve this without having a real negative effect on employees because we have – right now we have 215,000 people who can either retire through optional retirement or who are eligible for VERA so you’ve got chunk of people who are eligible to go.
It’s always been our approach to try do it through attrition. We haven’t laid anybody off out of all that 234,000. You know, we’ve done it in I think a responsible way.
If we have to have RIFs [Reductions In Force, or layoffs], we will do that. We have to do what we have to do. I mean it’s, so–and if we need to have an incentive buyout, we may have to do that. That’s not been decided yet, but it’s an option on the table.
I will say the one thing that we will not do is have an organization-wide buyout like a flat across the board. That will not happen.
As the exchange above demonstrates, Donahoe doesn’t “plan to cut” jobs, he’s using a combination of layoffs and attrition. If that doesn’t happen, he’ll lay off more workers.
And the cuts will keep on coming in other ways: Postal officials in April will announce a faster way to determine whether postal branches and stations should close, potentially opening up a whole new area of debate and concern as lawmakers fight to protect mail facilities in their states. Stay tuned.
| U.S. Postal Service announces sweeping job cuts
Mar 24, 2010. The U.S. Postal Service announced Thursday that it will reduce its workforce with layoffs and offers of buyouts and will close seven district offices from New England to New Mexico to help address record losses. The reorganization, designed to eliminate 7,500 administrative, executive and postmaster jobs this year, came as a commission that is evaluating the Postal Service's plan to eliminate Saturday delivery concluded that one in four letters would be delayed by not just one but by two days.
The independent Postal Regulatory Commission also said that postal officials underestimated the losses the agency would suffer from handling less mail‹ and overestimated the cost savings.
Five-day service and a smaller workforce are among the Postal Service's strategies to become solvent after losses of $8.5 billion in fiscal 2010, the result of declining mail volumes. Projected losses for 2011 are $6.4 billion.
Once buyout decisions aimed at administrative staff are final in April, the agency plans to eliminate the jobs of thousands of postmasters and supervisors, many through layoffs, officials said.
"Nobody did anything wrong, but we're a victim of the economy and past legislation," said Anthony Vegliante, the Postal Service's chief human resources officer and executive vice president. The cuts are expected to save $750 million a year.
District offices that handle managerial work will close in Columbus, Ohio; Albuquerque; Billings, Mont.; Macon, Ga.; Providence, R.I.; Troy, Mich.; and Carol Stream, Ill., the Postal Service said.
The closures will pave the way for the agency to close up to 2,000 local post offices throughout the next two years, a plan announced in January.
Vegliante said he expects about 3,000 administrators to take the buyouts, which will offer $20,000 to employees over age 50 with at least 20 years of service, or any age with at least 25 years of service. Layoffs will then be used to help reach the 7,500 goal, he said, though he would not commit to a number.
The Postal Service has eliminated 105,000 full-time positions in the last two years, among them clerks, plant workers and mail handlers. Those cuts were made mostly through attrition and early retirements.
The Postal Service announced plans for five-day service in 2009, although Congress, which must approve the change, has showed little interest in pursuing it.
Among the findings of the 211-page opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission:
- Five-day service would delay by two days delivery of 25 percent of first class and priority mail.
- The Postal Service did not adequately evaluate the effect of five-day service on rural areas.
- While the Postal Service estimated net savings from the reduced service at $3.1 billion, the commission's estimate is closer to $1.7 billion.
- Lost revenue from mail volume declines from the service cuts would be $600 million a year, not the $200 million the Postal Services estimates.
Margaret Cigno, the regulatory commission's chief analyst, said many letters normally delivered on Saturday would not arrive until Tuesday because Saturday mail would no longer be transported and processed over the weekend. "Saturday would not just end delivery, but mail would not go out," she said.
Postal officials said they would continue supporting the plan.
"I'm comfortable that people did their due diligence," Vegliante said, calling five-day service "an inevitable question."
"Whether it's tomorrow or 10 years from now, sooner or later it's got to be dealt with."
| Postal Service to offer buyouts to shrink workforce
Mar 24, 2010. The U.S. Postal Service announced Thursday that it will offer $20,000 early retirement incentives to eligible administrative staff as part of a money-saving strategy that also will close seven district offices from New England to New Mexico.
The cuts are part of a reorganization to eliminate 7,500 administrative, supervisory and postmaster positions this year to help the Postal Service address record losses from declining mail volume. Once buyout decisions are final at the end of April, the agency plans to eliminate the jobs of thousands of postmasters and supervisors, many through layoffs, officials said.
"Nobody did anything wrong, but we're a victim of the economy and past legislation," said Anthony Vegliante, the Postal Service's chief human resources officer and executive vice president. The cuts are expected to save $750 million in the next year.
Also Thursday, a long-awaited advisory opinion on the Postal Service's proposal to do away with Saturday delivery suggested that the agency underestimated the effect on service of five-day delivery and overestimated the cost savings.
Among the findings of the 211-page opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission:
-- Five-day service would delay by two days delivery of 25 percent of First Class and Priority Mail.
-- The Postal Service did not adequately evaluate the effect of five-day service on rural areas.
-- While the Postal Service estimated net savings from the reduced service at $3.1 billion, the estimate should be closer to $1.7 billion.
-- Lost revenue from volume declines from the service cuts would be $600 million a year, not the $200 million the Postal Services estimates.
|Member Alert: Post Offices Still in Jeopardy of Closure
Feb 4, 2011. Many of you have been reading news articles, studying editorials and watching newscasts about the impending closing of thousands of post offices nationwide. We've heard figures ranging from 491 to 2,000 and up to 16,000 buildings that the Postal Service is in the process of closing or reviewing for closure, or both. If you include all postal stations and branches, 16,000 buildings would be half of all existing post offices.
Mark Strong, president, National League of Postmasters, pointed out to his members that many media stories were slanted "in a way that showed closures are needed, past due and warranted." A huge problem for the Postal Service is the burdensome overpayment of $55-75 billion to the civil service retirement fund and the Congressionally-mandated annual $5.5 billion payment for pre-funding of retirement health care until 2016, which no other government agency is required to do. Many media stories did not report these facts in their articles, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal.
"No one mentioned that closing 10,000 of the smallest offices only saves 7/10 of one percent of the total operating budget and that does not take into account the extension of delivery that will have to take place to provide service," says Mark Strong. "In my opinion, it follows the blueprint of five-day delivery...blitz the media with articles on closure and condition the public to the thought of closing post offices."
It's not just rural post offices that operate at a deficit. Many urban offices also lose money. However, according to NAPUS President Bob Rapoza, "The Postal Service is denied the opportunity to offer innovative and customer-desired products and services, as the result of an overly-restrictive definition of 'postal products' under current law. There are significant opportunities for the postal agencies to offset falling mail volume with non-traditional postal products and partnering with local governments."
"As postal lessors know, universal service is mandated in the U.S. Constitution, specifically rural post offices and postal roads," says AUSPL President Gary Poelstra. "We believe universal service should be available to everyone in the country, wherever they call home. We are working diligently with the postmaster associations and others in the postal community to fight for every building that is targeted".
"We believe many buildings could be in jeopardy. If you feel your building is at risk, please call us at AUSPL at 800-572-9483," says Gary.
Four hundred of the 2,000 post offices targeted for closure are buildings that have been suspended for quite some time. Others on the "hit list" include post offices operating without a permanent postmaster, have very few customers and are losing money. According to an article in the Washington Post, post offices that are losing money, employ less than five people, stay open less than eight hours per day and are within 15-20 miles of another location are the most likely to be closed.
One of the challenges we face as lessors is legislation such as a bill introduced by Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE), which would erase the restriction on closing post offices solely for financial reasons.
Current federal law says post offices cannot be closed for economic reasons alone. To close or consolidate a building, USPS must follow proper procedures, which include considering the effect on the community, on Postal Service workers, notifying customers in a timely fashion and allowing them an opportunity to voice their concerns. Federal law also mandates USPS must provide a maximum degree of regular and effective postal service to rural areas, communities and small towns.
At AUSPL, we are working with lessors whose buildings are in jeopardy because we believe every citizen everywhere deserves the same postal services and it's best done in a post office with experienced postal workers rather than a retail establishment such as pharmacies, groceries and the like.
Be part of the solution. Get involved. Start by registering for our annual conference. Click here to register for AUSPL Conference.
| Postal Service eyes closing thousands of Post Offices
Jan 25, 2011. The U.S. Postal Service plays two roles in America: an agency that keeps rural areas linked to the rest of the nation, and one that loses a lot of money. Now, with the red ink showing no sign of stopping, the postal service is hoping to ramp up a cost-cutting program that is already eliciting yelps of pain around the country. Read full story