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Federal Eye
Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 03/24/2011

Explaining the Postal Service’s job cuts


(Katherine Frey - THE WASHINGTON POST)
The U.S. Postal Service on Thursday is expected to detail how it plans to cut about 7,500 administrative positions.

Postal officials previously announced plans to cut the 7,500 positions in January, and Thursday’s announcement clarifies which positions are impacted.

Eye Opener

The job cuts are expected to impact about 2,000 postmasters — the folks who manage individual post offices — and another 5,500 supervisors and administrative staffers. Cutting postmasters is especially noteworthy, because it will likely prompt USPS to close the post offices they operate.

Though 7,500 seems like an impressive figure, remember the Postal Service still has about 520,000 full-time workers; another 234,000 employees left in the last decade on their own volition or through early-retirement incentive programs.

On average, about 22,500 postal workers leave the mail agency each year by retiring or finding another job, according to USPS. Layoffs are rare and in most cases, contractually prohibited. (A tentative deal with one of its largest labor unions however would allow USPS to lay off some workers in the future if necessary.)

Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe has said his goal is to have 30,000 fewer employees working for the Postal Service by the end of its fiscal year in September by using the 7,500 layoffs and the estimated 22,500 departures.

Thursday’s anticipated announcement is especially significant, because USPS is using layoffs for the first time since posting the historic financial losses of recent years.

Close readers may recall two weeks ago when The Federal Eye and others raised concerns with stories by two federal news outlets who breathlessly reported “Exclusive” news that Donahoe “plans to cut” 30,000 positions. (Updated version of the stories, which you can read at the links in the previous sentence, are much less dramatic than before.) The concern stemmed from characterizations of this exchange during a Federal Times editorial board meeting with Donahoe:

EDITOR 1: But the end of 2011, how many fewer carriers do you expect to have? (Emphasis added by The Eye: Using “carriers” is inaccurate, because any cuts would impact all postal employees, not just carriers.)

MR. DONAHOE: By the end of 2011, our goal for 2011 is a headcount reduction of 30,000 people.

EDITOR 1: Which includes the 7,500?

MR. DONAHOE: Yeah, yeah.

EDITOR 2: And that’s FY11?

MR. DONAHOE: Yeah. We’ll make that.

EDITOR 3: And how are you going to do that? Is it, are you planning buyouts or early retirements or further RIFs or just attrition?

MR. DONAHOE: Some with attrition. The interesting thing is, and this is, this is why, one of the things that we’ve been trying – the point we’ve been trying to make on the six to five is critical because you have an opportunity now to resolve this without having a real negative effect on employees because we have – right now we have 215,000 people who can either retire through optional retirement or who are eligible for VERA so you’ve got chunk of people who are eligible to go.

It’s always been our approach to try do it through attrition. We haven’t laid anybody off out of all that 234,000. You know, we’ve done it in I think a responsible way.

If we have to have RIFs [Reductions In Force, or layoffs], we will do that. We have to do what we have to do. I mean it’s, so–and if we need to have an incentive buyout, we may have to do that. That’s not been decided yet, but it’s an option on the table.

I will say the one thing that we will not do is have an organization-wide buyout like a flat across the board. That will not happen.

As the exchange above demonstrates, Donahoe doesn’t “plan to cut” jobs, he’s using a combination of layoffs and attrition. If that doesn’t happen, he’ll lay off more workers.

And the cuts will keep on coming in other ways: Postal officials in April will announce a faster way to determine whether postal branches and stations should close, potentially opening up a whole new area of debate and concern as lawmakers fight to protect mail facilities in their states. Stay tuned.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

RELATED: Federal Eye coverage of the U.S. Postal Service

NOTE: The Federal Eye is headed West for a few days of R&R. Colleagues Lisa Rein, Joe Davidson and others will write in this space until The Eye returns next week.

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By  |  04:00 AM ET, 03/24/2011

Categories:  Eye Opener, Postal Service

 
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