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USPS accelerates plant consolidations

Mar. 27, 2013 - 06:22PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
On top of 100 mail processing plants already slated for consolidation this year, the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service is adding 53 others that were previously supposed to be downsized next year.
On top of 100 mail processing plants already slated for consolidation this year, the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service is adding 53 others that were previously supposed to be downsized next year. (Brian Kersey / Getty Images)

The U.S. Postal Service is again trying to get smaller, faster.

On top of 100 mail processing plants already slated for consolidation this year, the cash-strapped agency is adding 41 others that were previously supposed to be downsized next year.

The Postal Service announced its plan to accelerate those plant consolidations in a notification Tuesday to the union that represents many plant employees.

While most workers are protected from layoffs, some may face reassignment to vacant jobs, Patrick Devine, a USPS contract administration manager, wrote in the letter to the American Postal Workers Union. Devine did not say how many employees work at the affected plants; the APWU also did not have a number Wednesday.

The union posted the letter on its website, accompanied by a statement from president Cliff Guffey predicting a “devastating” effect on service.

“These closures will eliminate jobs, harm communities, and delay mail delivery every day, Monday through Saturday,” Guffey said. He again urged Congress to pass “meaningful postal reform” that “restores the Postal Service to financial stability without destroying service or harming postal workers.”

In an email, USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan attributed the decision to the Postal Service’s dire financial condition and the continuing falloff in profitable first-class mail volume. As a result, she said, “we must continue to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs by making better use of space, staffing, equipment and transportation in processing the nation’s mail.”

Under a three-stage downsizing effort begun last year, the Postal Service is slashing the number of processing plants in half — from 460 to around 230 — by next year:

• 48 processing operations were shuttered last year.

• 141 will be shuttered this year — up from 82 that were previously announced.

• The rest of the downsizing will occur next year.

The Postal Service estimates $1.2 billion in annual savings and a loss of 13,000 jobs. This year’s round of cuts is now expected to be complete by the end of September.

When publishing the consolidation timetable last year, USPS officials made clear that adjustments were possible, Brenan said. “So, what we’ve done this week is announce the specifics of what we said back then we might do,” she said.

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