The U.S. Postal Service is offering $15,000 buyouts to virtually all of its 45,000 career mail handlers, a spokesman said Friday.
The buyouts will be payable in two $7,500 installments — one in December and another in December 2013. With a few exceptions, all career employees covered by the Postal Service’s national agreement with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union are eligible, according to a bulletin on a Postal Service website.
Full-time workers wanting to sign up must do so by July 2 and agree to leave or retire by Aug. 31. Part-time career mail handlers are eligible on a pro-rated basis tied to the number of hours worked in the last year. Part-timers have until July 16 to make a decision, but also must be out the door by the end of August.
In a Friday phone interview, NPMHU President John Hegarty said he thought that at least several thousand would sign up overall.
“Obviously, we don’t want to lose members,” Hegarty said, “but we realize that with the downsizing the Postal Service is engaging in, that this might create landing spots for people who aren’t able to retire.”
The buyout is the largest since 1992 in terms of the number of employees eligible, he said.
Confirmation of the agreement with the mail handlers union came a week after USPS executives said they would proceed with the closing or consolidation of 48 mail processing plants this summer as the first step in a historic downsizing that will eventually shrink the plant network by half and eliminate 28,000 jobs. In a final rule published in Friday’s Federal Register, the agency said it is going ahead with changes to first-class mail delivery standards that will allow it to run the remaining plants more efficiently. Implementation will begin in July and continue into 2014.
At the American Postal Workers Union, which also represents some mail processing plant employees, spokeswoman Sally Davidow said Thursday that the Postal Service had so far not extended a formal buyout offer for its members. She could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
The Postal Service spokesman, Mark Saunders, had no comment on that issue Friday. He also declined to say whether the Postal Service has a target for the number of employees it hopes will take the buyouts.
“It’s an important personal decision and we can’t speculate on how many people will take advantage,” he said.
The troubled mail carrier, which lost $6.5 billion in the first six months of fiscal 2012, is eager to cut costs by enticing workers to leave voluntarily. Earlier this month, the Postal Service offered $20,000 buyouts to some 21,000 postmasters under a separate plan to trim operating expenses at 13,000 post offices.
In 2009, the Postal Service extended $15,000 incentives to employees represented by the NPMHU and the postal workers union in hopes of encouraging some 30,000 to leave. In that case, the payments were split into $10,000 the first year and $5,000 the second. Among workers not eligible for this latest offer are those on probation, along with any who are transferring to another federal agency, according to the Postal Service.