APWU Seeks to Stop Consolidations Until PRC Issues Opinion

The APWU assailed a “modified” USPS consolidation plan at a hearing before the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) on June 7, and notified the panel that the union will file a complaint seeking to stop the Postal Service from consolidating mail processing facilities and reducing service until after the PRC issues an advisory opinion on the plan.

The USPS intends to implement the plan July 1. Federal law requires the USPS to seek an advisory opinion from the PRC when it plans to make nationwide changes in service.

Under the modified proposal, the USPS plans to consolidate 48 mail processing facilities and reduce overnight mail delivery, beginning July 1. After a hiatus in the fall, the USPS plans to resume the first phase of the plan early in 2013, with the consolidation of 92more plants. Phase 2 calls for an additional 89 plants to be consolidated by the end of 2014. Beginning in 2014, overnight delivery of First Class mail would be available only to large presort mailers. Delivery of periodical mail, which is to be slowed beginning July 1, 2012, will be further slowed in 2014.

At the hearing, the APWU asserted that the Postal Service’s modified plan cannot be justified by relying on testimony and evidence presented to the commission in March about an earlier version of the plan, as a USPS witness suggested. The Postal Service provided only one witness at the June 7 hearing and only indirect evidence to support the modified plan, the APWU noted.

Under cross-examination from the union’s attorneys, the USPS Manager of Network Analytics was unable to say how the Postal Service arrived at its estimated cost savings for Phase 1 of the modified plan. She admitted that the Postal Service is still working on “a more tailored breakdown” of Phase 1 and will continue to analyze it as the plan is implemented.

“Given the complete lack of analysis and evidence, there appears to be no justification for management’s claims of an estimated $1.2 billion in savings from Phase I of the plan,” APWU counsel told the panel.

“The Postal Service is attempting to make an end-run around the requirement to seek an opinion from the PRC before implementing a nationwide change in service,” APWU President Cliff Guffey said. “This is a disservice to the American people, who rely on the USPS to deliver mail, medicine and packages in a timely manner.”

The commission is currently considering four separate USPS proposals to cut service, including its proposal to downgrade service standards and a proposal to reduce the hours at approximately half of the nation’s retail offices.

In May, in response to stiff opposition to a plan the USPS presented in October 2011, the Postal Service announced it would implement the consolidations over a two-year period. The USPS projects savings of $1.2 billion per year during phase 1 and $2.1 billion after Phase 2, but the Postal Service cannot support the projected savings, the union noted at the hearing.

The APWU also insisted that the planned service cuts are unnecessary, and said the Postal Service is underestimating the loss of revenue the change in service will cause.

The commission expects to issue a formal opinion on the USPS modified plan by Labor Day.