3/26/2009

U.S. Postal Service on the Brink of Bankruptcy


I worked for the USPS in the earlier part of my government career. The thing I remember most about it was the total acrimony between management and labor. There were constant day to day wars between both camps. Management would interpret the contract one way and labor would interpret another. The tension was very bad and I always worried if someone would go “postal” during the work day. I was glad to get away from there and move on. Maybe twenty percent of the work force actually did the day to day work to get the mail out the door. There were so many people who just didn't give a damn if the mail got out or not. They were still going to pocket a big paycheck regardless. Labor costs are take up about 75% of the USPS budget.

It was revealed by the Postmaster General [article link], John Potter, that USPS will run out of money this year to function. If they don't get help from Congress, they will have to shut the doors. USPS lost almost $3 billion dollars last year. This year they are on a record pace to break that number. One way I have always thought suitable to save money was to cut back delivery to 5 days a week. Tuesday is a day of traditionally low mail volume. If they were to stop delivery just on this day, they would save over a billion dollars. But, Congress has always been cool to the idea of 5 day delivery. This is nothing new as this idea has been bandied around for at least 10 years. I don't see Congress letting this happen. One way they could cut labor costs is to do away with the “casual workforce” of temporary workers. These are temporary employees who just get a paycheck and no benefits. They usually work two 90 day periods in a year and then are laid off. But, I remember it was the “casuals” who seemed to do all the work. The full time employees felt that hard physical labor was beneath them. I suspect if they want to keep their job, they will figure out a way that hard work will be better than the unemployment line. In fact, word I heard is that if you have less than 6 years of service, you could be laid off this year. I hope that doesn't happen. But, unless USPS does something to cut costs, everyone is going to be out of a job.

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