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Ending Saturday mail delivery could cut local jobs
Layoffs would be done through attrition
Cutting out all but package deliveries on Saturdays could mean thousands of job losses in the United States Postal Service, including some at the Porterville and Lindsay post offices.
Gale Weber, president of Branch 1469 Porterville and Lindsay National Association of Postal Carriers, said cutting mail deliveries on Saturdays could mean the loss of five or six carriers locally.
“The union will oppose no Saturday mail to save jobs,” she added.
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said on Wednesday that he wants to cut out mail delivery on Saturdays to save money. Congress has voted in the past to bar the idea of eliminating Saturday delivery, and his announcement immediately drew protests from some lawmakers. The plan is to take effect in August, and Weber said Donahoe is trying to bypass Congress in his move.
The Postal Service, which suffered a $15.9 billion loss in the past budget year, said it expected to save $2 billion annually with the Saturday cutback. Mail such as letters and magazines would be affected. Delivery of packages of all sizes would continue six days a week.
Weber said the Porterville post office has about 30 carriers, while Lindsay has fewer than 10. She said all carriers work 40 hours a week and overtime has been reduced drastically over the past few years. She said the highest paid carriers earn $56,000 a year.
Weber said the carriers earn every penny.
“We work out in heat and rain. Our working conditions are not always pleasant,” she said.
However, the post office is hiring what Weber called city carrier assistants who are paid less and not given benefits as another way to reduce costs.
She said the post office, known for its losses, is being hurt by a requirement that it prepay its pension costs. The majority of the service’s red ink comes from a 2006 law forcing it to pay about $5.5 billion a year into future retiree health benefits, something no other agency does. Without that payment — $11.1 billion in a two-year installment last year — and related labor expenses, the mail agency sustained an operating loss of $2.4 billion for the past fiscal year, lower than the previous year.
“We’ve already paid $23 billion into that fund,” said Weber.
Congress also has stymied the service’s efforts to close some post offices in small towns.
Under the new plan, mail would be delivered to homes and businesses only from Monday through Friday but would still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays. Post offices now open on Saturdays would remain open.
Over the past several years, the USPS has advocated shifting to a five-day delivery schedule for mail and packages — and it repeatedly but unsuccessfully has appealed to Congress to approve the move. An independent agency, the service gets no tax dollars for its day-to-day operations but is subject to congressional control.
The proposed change is based on what appears to be a legal loophole — and that may be a gamble. Congress has long included a ban on five-day-only delivery in its spending bills, but because the federal government is now operating under a temporary spending measure rather than an appropriations bill, Donahoe says it’s the agency’s interpretation that it can make the change itself.
Donahoe said savings would include employee reassignment and attrition.