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Postal Service to cut 7,500 positions this month, 30,000 by end of year

Mar. 9, 2011 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEVEN WATKINS   |   Comments
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said the announcement will be part of a broader effort to trim postal ranks by 30,000 positions this year.
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe said the announcement will be part of a broader effort to trim postal ranks by 30,000 positions this year. (Mike Morones / Staff)

The U.S. Postal Service will announce March 25 a downsizing of approximately 7,500 supervisory, managerial and postmaster positions.

Most of those positions are filled, but many are not, especially in the postmaster positions, because of past attrition, said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in a March 9 interview with Federal Times editors and reporters.

The agency will use reductions-in-force (RIFs) and RIF avoidance measures in carrying out the downsizing, he said.

The positions targeted, which will hit as many as 10 district offices and headquarters, include 3,500 administrative positions, 2,000 front-line supervisor and manager positions, and 2,000 postmasters.

Donahoe said the announcement will be part of a broader effort to trim postal ranks by 30,000 positions this year.

He said the Postal Service will use attrition and early retirement offers to reach that number and is weighing whether to use buyouts as well. If the Postal Service resorts to using a buyout offer, it will be targeted and not organizationwide, he said.

In response to plummeting mail volume, the Postal Service has trimmed its work force by some 230,000 in recent years through attrition, hiring freezes, early retirement offers and some buyouts.

The work force now stands at 575,000 people, Donahoe said. Over the next five years, he said he wants that number to fall to 400,000, with the majority of employees continuing to be mail carriers.

A key factor in reaching the goals will be Congress' willingness to let the Postal Service end most Saturday delivery, which alone would allow the service to cut about 40,000 jobs, Donahoe said.

Overall, 215,000 USPS employees are currently eligible for either optional or early retirement, he said.

The management downsizing coming later this month is part of a broader reorganization announced in January to deal with the Postal Service's continued record losses. Besides his plan to trim the ranks of top management, Donahoe, a USPS veteran who became postmaster general in December, closed the Southeast Area Office in Memphis.

On other topics, Donahoe said:

The Postal Service is considering closing up to 3,000 post offices, stations and branches by next year, while seeking other means to serve customers.

Hundreds of top executives and managers will have to begin paying part of their health insurance premiums. In an audit last September, the USPS inspector general reported that the Postal Service now shoulders the full cost. Over three years, Donahoe plans to shift some of the burden to those employees until the Postal Service contribution drops to the 72 percent rate found elsewhere in the federal government.

The Postal Service's reliance on standby time under which employees are essentially paid to do nothing because collective bargaining agreements limit use of layoffs is "down substantially" from 2009, when Federal Times reported that the agency was averaging some 45,000 hours every week. He attributed the decline to employee attrition.

sreilly@federaltimes.com?subject=Reader Question">Sean Reilly contributed to this story.

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