We’ve pointed out before that the idea that the US Postal Service is grossly overstaffed and needs to immediately get rid of thousands of idle employees is largely a myth. To be sure, the drop in mail volume has reduced workloads, but the lack of hiring and continued attrition have also driven overtime usage up in many areas.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the letter carrier craft. We’ve previously noted the rising carrier overtime rate- 13.1% in January. Now comes further evidence that the USPS has too few carriers- the Southwest Area employee newsletter carries a front page ad urging clerks and mailhandlers to consider becoming carriers. The ad is similar to one the USPS ran in its online employee newsletter in January.
The simple fact is that the USPS doesn’t have enough letter carriers to deliver the mail, and the numbers continue to shrink, even without any incentives. What that means for the remaining carriers is that there’s just about zero chance of them being offered an incentive to retire any time soon.
There are two things that could change that- the first, and most obvious, would be Congressional action to eliminate Saturday delivery. The PMG has in the past said that eliminating Saturdays would allow him to get rid of thousands of letter carriers. (Whether there would be an incentive for those carriers to leave is open to question though- Darrell Issa’s proposed “reform” bill would allow the USPS to simply terminate any employees eligible for even a minimal retirement, and forbid any incentive payments.)
The other possibility is an arbitrator’s decision in the NALC contract dispute that allows for lower wages, benefits and job security for newly hired carriers. That might tip the balance sufficiently for the USPS to consider offering buyouts for carriers even if it meant replacing them.