Postal Service to Stop Sat. Mail Delivery, Hire 400 Locally
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will soon stop delivering mail on Saturdays, but in another sense, it’s ramping up local operations with plans to hire 400.
The agency said Wednesday that it will transition to a new delivery schedule during the week of August 5, at which time it will end Saturday mail delivery to homes and businesses but continue to deliver packages to those locations six days a week. Mail will still be delivered to post office boxes on Saturdays, and post offices now open on Saturdays will remain so—but perhaps with limited hours—when the new plan takes effect.
Financially struggling USPS, which experienced a $15.9 billion loss in the 2012 fiscal year, expects to save about $2 billion annually once the new schedule is fully implemented.
In a separate announcement, USPS announced plans to hire roughly 400 city carrier assistants to deliver mail in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding suburbs. The agency is hiring for the same position in many other areas of the country, and the deadline to apply (which can be done in the “Careers” area within the USPS website) is Monday.
Starting pay for these “non-career positions” is $15 an hour, and those who occupy them will work part time and must have flexible schedules. Appointments are for one year, and benefits include vacation days and the “eventual opportunity” to enroll in a health plan.
USPS spokesman Peter Nowacki told Twin Cities Business that the carrier assistants will be needed during periods of heavy mail volume. For example, “there would certainly be some volume from Saturdays pushed to Mondays,” thus requiring more hands on deck, he said.
But the new hires will also reduce the amount of overtime worked by “career” employees, which is expected to result in cost savings.
“We haven’t done a lot of hiring for a long time because of the financial constraints that we’ve been under, and so we do run a lot of overtime,” Nowacki said, adding: “We always want to try to limit overtime as much as we can.”
Another reason it was necessary to hire: With the average USPS employee age at 54, much of the work force is at or nearing retirement, so the agency is “bringing in the next wave,” Nowacki said.
The USPS district that covers most of Minnesota and western Wisconsin employs about 13,000 employees—and layoffs are not anticipated in conjunction with the mail delivery schedule change in August, according to Nowacki.
USPS has advocated for a five-day delivery schedule for both mail and packages for several years, but Congress repeatedly failed to approve the move. The agency is independent and receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations, but it is still subject to congressional control.
Although Congress included a ban on five-day delivery in its appropriations bill, the federal government is now operating under a temporary spending measure, rather than an appropriations bill, so the agency has determined that it can make the change itself, according to the Associated Press. Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe reportedly said that the agency is essentially asking Congress not to reimpose the ban when the spending measure expires on March 27 and will work with legislators on the issue.
Meanwhile, Nowacki said that strong demand for package delivery prompted the agency to depart from its original vision and continue package delivery on Saturdays: Package volume has increased 14 percent since 2010.
USPS said that market research conducted by it and others indicate that seven out of 10 Americans support the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the agency to reduce costs in an effort to return itself to financial stability.
USPS employs more than 500,000 nationally, and it loses between 27,000 and 30,000 annually through attrition.
In a recent column, Twin Cities Business Editor in Chief Dale Kurschner argued that it’s time to let the private sector help reform government spending—and he outlines several recommendations for restructuring the U.S. Postal Service. To read the column, click here.