As USPS cuts staff, overtime pay jumps

Reports filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission this week show that the USPS has paid bargaining unit employees almost $1.3 billion in overtime since the fiscal year began on October 1. That reflects an increase in overtime costs of $56 million over the same period last year. The total year to date overtime rate is 7.5%, up from 6.8% in FY 2009. The rate of increase may be accelerating- in the two week pay period ended March 12, a relatively low volume time of the year, the USPS OT rate was 6.6%- for the same period last year the rate was 4.7%.

Year to date clerk overtime jumped to 7.2% from 5.6% a year ago, while the mail handler YTD OT rate went from 8.8% to 10.7%. Mail handler OT for pay period 6 alone more than doubled from the prior year, at 9.2%, compared with 4.4% in 2009.

City carrier overtime showed the lowest increase, up from 9.6% to 9.9% year to date. City carriers have also had a net decrease in overtime hours worked so far this year, a trend which has begun to reverse- last pay period city carriers worked almost 260,000 more overtime hours that in the same period last year.

The only group showing a significant drop in overtime are rural carriers. Their overtime pay has dropped by $7.7 million so far this year. Rural carriers’ overtime was already the lowest in the USPS, but the year to date rate has dropped to just 1.3% from last year’s 1.6%.

The increase in overtime as total hours drop is not entirely unexpected- it isn’t possible to align staffing cuts with volume reductions perfectly. But the increase does raise questions about the postal service’s ability to effectively manage that realignment.