U.S. Postal Service's Dave Williams, vice president of network operations, announced Aug. 17 that more than 300 of the 508 existing mail processing plants will close. (J.Lee / Staff)
The U.S. Postal Service intends to close more than 60 percent of its mail processing plants by the end of next year, potentially displacing thousands of employees.
From the current inventory of 508 plants, the agency wants to go to fewer than 200, Dave Williams, vice president of network operations, told participants at a mailing industry conference Wednesday at the Postal Service's headquarters in downtown Washington.
The planned consolidation will be part of a larger "redesign" of the postal processing network aimed at dealing with declining mail volumes, he said. The closings could begin early in 2012.
While USPS officials have not decided on a final list of plants to be shuttered, "we are going to drive the timeline as quick as we can," Williams said. To squeeze more capacity out of the remaining facilities, the Postal Service plans to run equipment, such as delivery bar code sorters, at 20 hours a day, he said, compared with a pace of about five hours a day now.
More than 30,000 Postal Service employees will be affected. The agency will follow requirements in union contracts in dealing with them, Williams said afterward. Attrition would take care of some of the impact, while other workers would be reassigned to jobs elsewhere, John Hegarty, president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, said later in a phone interview.
The planned plant closings represent a new cost-cutting step by the Postal Service, which expects to lose about $9 billion this fiscal year. The agency mentioned the downsizing in a paper released last week urging congressional action to eliminate layoff protections in union agreements as part of an effort to cut 220,000 career positions by 2015.