2012 December - postalnews blog

Archive for December, 2012

Retirement: FERS and sick leave

From USPS News Link:

Employees working under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) who are planning to retire this year are advised to review how unused sick leave will be credited as service when calculating retiree benefits.

FERS employees who retire between now and Dec. 31, 2013 will have 50 percent of their earned sick leave credited toward service time. Those who retire after Dec. 31, 2013, will have all unused sick leave credited.

As of Jan. 1, 2014, FERS retirees will join Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) retirees in having all unused sick leave credited.

When unused sick leave is computed in an annuity, it can add to the amount an employee receives every month in an annuity.

Employees should note that unused sick leave does not count towards the time required for retirement eligibility, and is not credited for deferred retirements.

Does Privatisation Threaten Democracy?

With the privatisation of the postal service there are no longer any (fully) publicly controlled means of communication between individuals, groups and public institutions. I think it is safe to say that nearly all of our communication, not done face to face, is mediated by private corporations. In a democratic society this seems highly problematic for a very simple reason. The very essence of democratic conduct is public communication in and on the interests of the common good.

Read more: Darian Meacham: Does Privatisation Threaten Democracy?.

Convenient Untruths About Postal Finances

Greg Bell
Executive Vice President

(This article by first appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

When the postal service announced in November that it had incurred a $15.9 billion loss in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2012, newspaper editorial boards and anti-government politicians cited the figure as proof that the Postal Service is doomed. They bemoaned the USPS financial crisis and called for privatization of the nation’s mail system.

Many blamed the Internet and some even attributed the postal deficit to “excessive” labor costs.

But those explanations are just convenient distortions of the truth.

Postal bashers are blinded by their desire to dismantle government and destroy large public-employee unions.

The truth is, were it not for the unreasonable pre-funding mandate imposed on the Postal Service by Congress in 2006, the USPS would have broken even or shown a profit in four of the last six fiscal years. The requirement to pre-fund 75-years worth of healthcare benefits for future retirees over a 10-year period is bleeding the Postal Service of $5.5 billion a year. The pre-funding obligation — which no other government agency or private company faces — accounts for approximately 80 percent of USPS losses.

Imagine if you were saving money each year for your child’s college education and you were told that in addition to financing your child’s education you also had to sock away enough money to pay for your grandchildren’s education and your great-grandchildren’s education. This is what Congress did when lawmakers required the Postal Service to fund retiree health benefits 75 years into the future.

The pre-funding requirement is the #1 reason for the Postal Service’s financial crisis.

Those who blame labor costs for the Postal Service’s financial difficulties conveniently overlook the fact that there are 280,000 fewer postal workers today than there were 10 years ago. They also fail to note that postal employees’ pension accounts are over funded by billions of dollars.

Those who blame the Internet for the Postal Service’s problems ignore the fact that at least a portion of the decline in mail volume is due to the Great Recession. While some first-class mail will never come back (due to electronic bill paying) package delivery is growing at double-digit rates. Standard mail is also making a comeback as the economy improves.

Desire to Dismantle

Postal bashers are blinded by their desire to dismantle government and destroy large public-employee unions. The unreasonable pre-funding mandate was not a miscalculation. It is having exactly the effect that was intended — to make the Postal Service ripe for privatization.

It doesn’t’t have to be this way. According to a recent study by Oxford Strategic Consulting, the Postal Service is the most efficient mail delivery business in the world.

No private company can do what the Postal Service does — not FedEx or UPS, or any other postal system in the world. Last year, the USPS delivered 160 billion pieces of mail to more than 150 million delivery points — all without a dime of taxpayer money.

The Postal Service delivers more than 30 percent of FedEx Ground shipments and a significant portion of UPS parcels. No company goes everywhere the USPS goes.

Congress created the USPS financial crisis and Congress must fix it. To revitalize the Postal Service, legislators must rescind the restrictions placed on the Postal Service during the 2006 lame-duck Congress and allow the Postal Service to expand into other services. Legislators also must allow the Postal Service greater flexibility in setting rates.

We must continue our fight to help them get it right.

Farewell

Approximately 25,500 APWU-represented employees signed up for the $15,000 incentive negotiated by the union in September. Good luck and best wishes to all those who are retiring!

I hope each soon-to-be retired union member gives serious consideration to joining the APWU Retiree Department. Dues are just $3 per month, and can be deducted from your annuity.

It may seem that once you are out the door, there is no need to be part of the union. But the truth is that retiree benefits are subject to the whims of Congress. Unfortunately, protecting those rights is a never-ending battle, and $3 per month is a small price to pay to ensure that the APWU Retiree Department is able to continue to represent your interests.

 

APWU: USPS Renews Attack on Custodial Work

Steve Raymer
Maintenance Division Director

(This article by first appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

apwulogoThe Maintenance Division officers wish our members a happy and prosperous 2013. For those who accepted the retirement incentive, we hope your decision proves to be a wise one and that you enjoy many years as a retiree.

Although the labor movement celebrated many election victories in November, we are locked in a fierce struggle with the USPS. Unfortunately, we see no change in the Postal Service’s attacks on our work.

The Postal Service continues, with renewed vigor, an assault on custodial work and our jobs. The APWU received notification in December 2011 that the USPS is “reconsidering the efficacy of its Housekeeping processes… In hopes of obtaining best-in-class performance, the Postal Service is soliciting proposals from consultants.”

At the end of May 2012, the Postal Service informed us that the USPS had selected a contractor, ManageMen. The company’s marketing materials say it provides “a comprehensive range of technical expertise to associations, in-house and outsourced cleaning organizations.”

Exploring Changes

During discussions between the APWU and the Postal Service, we learned that management is exploring ways to change the manner in which custodians perform their work, including cleaning methods and the type of equipment used. This also could include a change in how work is assigned.

We will continue to meet with the Postal Service as the study proceeds, and we have requested additional information from management. So far, however, the USPS has failed to share documentation with us.

Despite expressing lofty intentions, our history with management demonstrates that the Postal Service is interested in just one thing: the bottom line. That means cutting hours, cutting costs, cutting employees, and doing more with less.

It’s not overly cynical to suggest that if the only result of the contract with ManageMen is a cleaner post office, then management will scrap the idea. Of course, the Postal Service could use this initiative to deal forthrightly and honestly with us, but wait, pinch me, I must be dreaming.

A New Standard?

We are beginning to believe management’s new approach may constitute an attempt to implement a “work and time standard.” The USPS has not informed the APWU of such plans, despite the fact that Article 34 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement requires management to notify the union when it plans to establish work standards. The Postal Service has also failed to provide the union notice of any change to the MS-47 Housekeeping handbook, which is required in accordance with Article 19.

But when you hear a consistent “quacking” sound, eventually, you begin to believe there may be a duck nearby.

Be Vigilant

Throughout this period, please be vigilant about performing your duties in a safe and effective manner. Local managers may attempt to try new methods, asserting they learned about them through the Postal Service’s contract with ManageMen. As of this writing, however, the union has not agreed to any changes related to custodial work.

We will continue to keep you informed with articles on the APWU website and updates through National Business Agents to locals.

As always, please notify us of any information you become aware of from local management.

We still hope that at some point, the Postal Service will realize that the Maintenance Division is comprised of employees who are professionals in their fields and are equal to — if not better than — any workers to whom they can subcontract our work.

 

How bad is this Congress? Now they’re even having trouble naming post offices!

You know a Congress is bad when its only major legislative achievements are laws to send the nation back into recession and gut its credit rating, but at least they could put aside politics and get on with naming more post offices, right? Sadly, it appears this Congress can’t even manage that!

From the Wall Street Journal:

With days to go in the session that began in January 2011, Congress has named just 31 post offices, according to congressional records, down from 71 in the previous session and less than a third of the record high of 109 set two sessions ago, when nearly a quarter of the nation’s legislative effort went into naming post offices.

The Journal goes on to suggest that part of the “problem” lies with Congressman Darrel Issa:

One explanation for the appellation austerity is the policy of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, through which House legislation on post offices must pass. In a March 2011 memo, the committee’s staff said it would consider such bills only once every two to three months ‘in order to efficiently utilize the time and resources of the Committee and the House.’”

… and we all know how well that’s worked out!

Read more: Gridlocked Congress Hits Pause in Naming Game – Washington Wire – WSJ.

Video: Sketch released of possible robber of Colorado postal worker

ENGLEWOOD – U.S. Postal Inspectors have developed a composite sketch of a suspect in the armed robbery of a letter carrier which occurred in Englewood on Dec. 24, at 6:30 pm, at the corner of West Dartmouth Avenue and South Delaware Street.

The suspect is a Hispanic male with a noticeable Spanish accent, 35 to 40 years old, approximately 5 feet 9 inches, thin build, wearing a dark, zip-front sweatshirt and blue jeans.

Read more: Sketch released of possible robber of postal-service worker | 9news.com.

Royal Mail to Celebrate 50 Years of Doctor Who

MattSmithStamp

March 26 2013, will see Royal Mail celebrate the 50th anniversary of the world’s longest running science fiction series in TV history – Doctor Who – with the launch of a special set of 11 stamps. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Bay Area postal worker accused of stealing mail makes court appearance

SAN CARLOS, Calif. (KGO) — A mail carrier was in court Thursday for a status hearing after he was accused of stealing mail on the Peninsula.

Daly City police arrested Romeo Natan after investigators say he tried to use stolen credit cards at a Target store. It appears he obtained the cards after filling out applications sent to customers along his route in San Carlos.

San Mateo District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe suspects Natan snatched up to 3,000 pieces of mail. "You and I as victims may not even know that there was a credit card envelope taken out of my mail and somebody then filled it out, put my name on it, and got a credit card," he said.

Read more: Bay Area postal worker accused of stealing mail makes court appearance | abc7news.com.

Video: Postal Workers Get Free Pass for Not “Handling with Care”

LEAWOOD, Kan. — If that Christmas gift you got in the mail arrived in pieces, a Grandview man believes he may know the reason. Harold Nelson was so appalled at the way a U.S Postal worker was handling packages that he recorded her on his cell phone.

Nelson was standing outside a shopping center in Leawood, Kansas, assisting his daughter in a fundraiser when he noticed a postal worker loading packages into her truck. He said he noticed her because she was making so much noise — by what he described as aggressively tossing packages into the back of the truck.

Read more: Postal Workers Get Free Pass for Not “Handling with Care” | fox4kc.com – Kansas City news & weather from WDAF TV – FOX 4.

USPS still showing slight operating profit for FY 2013

Two months into the new fiscal year, despite warnings of doom and gloom, the US Postal Service is actually showing a slight profit- at least until you apply the political bookkeeping tricks required by the 2006 PAEA law.

Through the end of November the USPS had operating expenses of $11.3 billion, and revenue of $11.6 billion, resulting in an operating profit of $237 million. This despite a 3.6% decline in first class mail volume. Standard mail volume was also down 3.3% for the month of November, but year to date it’s still up by 6.4%. That number likely reflects the large number of political mailings in October that evaporated in November.

The USPS numbers show a sharp increase in shipping volume, but that’s mainly due to the reclassification of mail types. The bottom line shows overall mail volume in November was down 3.4% for the month, while it’s still up by 2.2% for the year to date.

As has been the case for the last few years, unfortunately, the slightly positive results are completely wiped out by a bookkeeping debit entry of almost a billion dollars for “future retiree health benefits”. The USPS hasn’t actually paid the Treasury that amount, and never will, but it’s required under PAEA to carry the charge on its books, allowing politicians on both sides of the aisle to wag their fingers at the supposedly “bankrupt” USPS. Like the “fiscal cliff” and the “debt ceiling” “crises”, the postal service’s immediate financial problems are entirely artificial, created by politicians to advance their political agendas.

Given how difficult it seems to be for Congress to avoid the artificial train wrecks it has already created for the economy, it doesn’t seem likely that it will be able to do much for the postal service beyond naming more post offices and installing more of those clever little countdown clocks on Congressional web sites.

USPS Preliminary Financial Results for November 2012 (pdf file).