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Postal Service to announce new downsizing plan Thursday

May. 16, 2012 - 05:57PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

The U.S. Postal Service is set to announce some downsizing of its mail processing plant network Thursday, but the plan will likely be more modest than leaders envisioned just a few months ago.

“What they’re looking for is a short-term solution that saves them money, does some consolidation, but doesn’t rankle a lot of people across the political spectrum,” said George Gould, a consultant and former lobbyist with the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Postmaster General Pat Donahoe and Megan Brennan, the Postal Service’s chief operating officer, have scheduled a webinar for the news media at 11:30 a.m. Thursday EST to announce the next steps in “right-sizing” the network, according to a Postal Service advisory.

The online news conference comes two days after the Postal Service’s self-imposed moratorium on plant closings expired. Although dozens of members of Congress have asked Donahoe to continue the freeze until lawmakers give final approval to postal overhaul legislation, “from a fiscally responsible standpoint, we have to move ahead on this,” Donahoe said last week. “We’ve lost too much [mail] volume and we have to address the infrastructure.”

While no wholesale closures are immediately in the works, Donahoe said, “we’ll have some consolidations in the summer, the majority after the first of the year.”

USPS spokesman Dave Partenheimer declined comment Wednesday on whether the cuts will be accompanied by buyouts or early retirement incentives for affected employees. But the American Postal Workers Union, which represents many plant employees, was notified late Wednesday that the Postal Service is working on an “employee incentive,” according to a union spokeswoman.

In February, the Postal Service unveiled plans to close or consolidate about half of its 461 plants by next year. The cutbacks, which would ultimately eliminate 35,000 jobs, are supposed to eventually save the cash-strapped mail carrier more than $4 billion in yearly operating costs. But the outcry from Capitol Hill has been intense; legislation approved by the Senate last month would give a three-year reprieve to dozens of plants on the closure list.

The revised plan to be released Thursday incorporates similar protections, according to several people familiar with the Postal Service’s plans who spoke on condition that they not be named. In addition, Donahoe has pledged to halt all plant closings from the beginning of September through December because of the election season.

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