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Postal Service forges ahead on job cuts, plant closures

Aug. 28, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Postal Service Announces End To Saturday Delivery
Despite objections in Congress, the Postal Service has not changed its plans to cut jobs, close plants. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

Even as some lawmakers push to limit Postal Service cost-cutting measures, the agency still plans to reduce its workforce by up to 15,000 employees and close up to 82 processing centers.

On Aug. 14, a bipartisan group of 50 senators and 10 House lawmakers wrote a letter demanding Congress prohibit the Postal Service from consolidating its operations and cutting its workforce and include that prohibition in the upcoming funding for fiscal 2015.

While the Postal Service does not receive taxpayer funding for operations beyond a small amount for overseas voting and mail for the blind Congress has used appropriations laws to prevent the agency from cutting Saturday delivery.

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Michael Briggs, spokesman for Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is leading the effort in the Senate, said they are working hard to include the prohibition in any fiscal 2015 appropriations bill, and that many of those who signed the letter are in leadership positions or are on the appropriations committees.

“This is a major priority and we are going to keep fighting to protect the Postal Service from these draconian and unnecessary cuts...that would harm senior citizens, veterans, rural areas, middle class jobs, and the entire economy,” Briggs said.

But the Postal Service will be moving ahead with its plans to cut its workforce and close processing plants because it needs to cut costs, according to spokeswoman Patricia Licata.

The agency estimates that it could save $750 million annually from the planned cuts, and said it had already saved $865 million from closing 141 mail processing facilities in 2012 and 2013.

The Postal Service believes the best way to position the agency for the future is through comprehensive reform legislation, according to Licata, but will continue to cut costs where it can.

“The Postal Service is disappointed by the efforts to block our ongoing network rationalization. It would be unfortunate if such action were to impede the financial progress we have made,” she said.

But comprehensive reform legislation has stalled in Congress, with lawmakers unable to agree on what form the legislation should take – if its needed at all.

The Postal Service is lobbying lawmakers for a major overhaul, including: removing the requirement that the Postal Service prefund 75 years of retiree health benefits in only about 10 years — to the tune of $5.6 billion a year. Opponents and supporters of reform alike confirm that no other federal organization has that requirement.

USPS would also like the ability to end Saturday letter delivery, while expanding package delivery to the entire week and flexibility to change prices and add new products in the future while closing underused post offices.

Finally, the service wants authorization to further reduce its workforce. The agency has already shrunk by about 320,000 employees since fiscal 2000, but Donahoe has said legislation would allow the Postal Service to move from 485,000 career employees to 400,000 over the next few years.

But lawmaker and union officials point to recent improvements in the agency’s financial reports that show operating profits before prefunding requirements - $1 billion so far in fiscal 2014. They argue the only issue that hurts the Postal Service is the need to prefund retiree health benefits, and there is no need for additional legislation beyond reforming that requirement.

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