At a time when the U.S. Postal Service should be trying to downsize by getting employees to retire early, it instead continues finding ways to discourage early retirements.
In recent pension estimates for employees considering early retirement, USPS has been leaving out information about a significant benefit, writes Don Cheney in a PostalReporter editorial called Does the Postal Service Really Want Early Retirements?
“The Postal Service issued FERS [Federal Employees Retirement System] annuity estimates that omitted the employee’s FERS annuity supplement” even though the supplement “is often nearly equal the basic annuity amount,” he says. Cheney is an APWU leader in Auburn, WA who has worked extensively on and written about early-retirement problems at the Postal Service for seven years.
“Most postal employees in FERS are eligible for the annuity supplement after age 55 with 30 years of service, but in a VERA [voluntary early retirement], RIF [reduction in force], or involuntary transfer over 50 miles that requirement is reduced to 20 years – a significant bonus.” Calculating the supplement isn’t rocket science; there’s a Web site that does it for free.
Poor communication and actual miscommunication from the Postal Service were major reasons that employee response was so low to some special early-retirement offers last year. The National Association of Letter Carriers filed a grievance (which is still active) last year because USPS failed to provide mandatory retirement counseling prior to the deadline for accepting one of the offers.
A commenter wrote on this site last month that long delays between retirement date and receipt of full retirement pay are also causing postal employees to delay retirement. "I can calculate my retirement in 30 minutes on my calculator, so why does it take 7 months for the USPS to do it?"
Cheney wonders whether the Postal Service is purposely discouraging early retirements “so they can justify weakening the no-layoff clause in upcoming contract negotiations.”
For an organization that admits to having too many employees and whose strategic plan says it will shrink the workforce through attrition, the Postal Service’s actions – and inactions – on early retirement do look fishy. Is it trying to exacerbate its financial problems in the short term so that it can win some kind of longer-term relief, such as reform of retiree healthcare payments or an end to Saturday delivery?
Or is it just plain old incompetence and bureaucratic indifference? In any case, how can postal executives claim they need exigent rate increases when they clearly have not done everything they can to reduce the Postal Service’s cost structure via early retirements?
For other articles on early-retirement issues at the Postal Service, please see: