The U.S. Postal Service took a small step toward intelligent downsizing yesterday with a buy-out package for up to 30,000 employees, but it needs to do two more things -- quickly:
1) Reveal as much as possible about the planned consolidation of its 400 or so processing and distribution centers.
2) Overhaul the process of communicating projected retirement benefits for those who take early retirement.
The deal worked out with two employee unions offers a $15,000 early-retirement package to selected employees, mostly retail clerks, mail handlers, and vehicle technicians. For details, see the USPS announcement, the American Postal Workers Union memo, and the Washington Post's coverage. Also, see the 600-plus comments on yesterday's articles at such sites as PostalNews.com, PostalReporter.com, and PostalMag.com, where some folks are saying they will take the package while others say it's not enough.
Employees have only 30 days to decide whether to take the package, which presents a dilemma for eligible employees at the "P&DCs".
USPS has made no secret of its intent to consolidate its processing network. In just the past 30 days, it has announced eight such consolidations and the potential for five more, according to the APWU. Plans for the Flats Sequencing System suggest many more consolidations of flats sortation if not of entire plants (as discussed in Death of the SCF, Part 3: Flats Sequencing and, more recently, Declining Volumes Lead to FSS Expansion.)
When P&DCs are consolidated, affected employees typically have to commute or relocate to a P&DC in another city. What a shame, and lost opportunity, if some employees decide in September not to take the early-retirement offer and then discover a month or two later that the only way they can avoid being laid off is to take a job more than 100 miles from home.
As for the second thing USPS needs to do quickly, "The Postal Service's Early-Retirement Snafu" has already spelled out how USPS often understates the benefits for prospective early retirees, leading to abysmally low responses to early-retirement offers. If it's worth $15,000 to get people to retire early, it's certainly worth spending a few bucks on employee communication to ensure those people have accurate information about their retirement benefits.