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Regulators give OK to plan to cut hours at 13,000 post offices

Aug. 24, 2012 - 10:38AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
The independent Postal Regulatory Commission said Aug. 24 that the Post Office Structure Plan (POStPlan) “should help balance service and cost savings” if implemented properly.
The independent Postal Regulatory Commission said Aug. 24 that the Post Office Structure Plan (POStPlan) “should help balance service and cost savings” if implemented properly. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The U.S. Postal Service’s proposed service cutbacks at thousands of post offices have gotten a mostly favorable thumbs-up from an independent oversight body.

In an advisory opinion released late Thursday, the Postal Regulatory Commission said that the Post Office Structure Plan (POStPlan) “should help balance service and cost savings” if implemented properly. While the five-member commission made a number of recommendations — urging the Postal Service, for example, to conduct an internal review to ensure that the endeavor is meeting its goals — the panel praised the effort as a welcome alternative to closing post offices outright.

Starting Wednesday, affected communities will be formally notified of the possible changes, USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan said in an email.

The plan, unveiled in May, will reduce customer service window hours at some 13,000 post offices that serve relatively few customers to as little as two hours a day. At the same time, the Postal Service intends to eliminate about 12,500 of 21,000 full-time postmaster positions. Many of those jobs will become part-time, with predicted labor savings of more than a half-billion dollars annually.

The POStPlan represents the struggling mail carrier’s latest bid to shrink its vast, largely unprofitable network of some 32,000 post offices. The downsizing will play out over the next two years, but almost 3,800 postmasters have already resigned or retired in response to a $20,000 buyout and early retirement package offered as part of the plan.

Under federal law, USPS leaders had to request the nonbinding PRC opinion because the looming cutbacks will affect service nationwide. In a statement, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who heads a Postal Service oversight panel, welcomed the opinion, but said that only comprehensive congressional reform can address the agency’s underlying financial woes. While the Senate approved its version of a fix in April, the House has yet to take up a competing measure.

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