Here's one way labor unions are hindering staff reductions at the U.S. Postal Service -- telling their members the truth about the challenges of retiring from USPS.
Consider this statement from a recent article for members of the National Association of Letter Carriers:
"The Office of Personnel Management continues to struggle with timely completion of new retirees’ annuities," writes Ernest Kirkland, NALC Director of Retired Members. "Again, each member who is considering retirement should try to have a five-month reserve of his or her anticipated retirement income available prior to retiring. Saving 440 hours of annual leave for payment at retirement will be a great start toward that goal."
Kirkland also told Federal Times a few days ago week that the union is getting an increasing number of calls from recently retired members who are getting lower pension payments than they should while the Office of Personnel Management calculates their correct payments. The interim payments are sometimes half of what the retirees are supposed to be paid, according to the Federal Times' Stephen Losey.
The cash-strapped Postal Service hopes to reduce employment by 30,000 people this year, mostly through retirement, helped in some cases by early-retirement incentives. But how many more would retire if the process were smoother -- for example, as straightforward as it usually is for large private employers? (After all, influential Congressman Darrell Issa, R-CA, says USPS could stand to lose 200,000 employees.)
NALC has filed a grievance against the Postal Service for failing to provide retirement counseling to employees as required by law. And officials of the American Postal Workers Union have warned about USPS providing pension estimates to employees that were too low or just plain wrong.
The irony here is that union officials have a vested interest in discouraging retirements to prevent reductions in the number of active, dues-paying members, and yet they are trying to smooth the retirement process for employees. Meanwhile, the politicians and postal executives who are so eager to cut the Postal Service's workforce seem to have been silent on these hurdles in the retirement process.
Fortunately, the OPM is battling the backlog of retirement applications from federal and USPS employees by hiring new claims processors and having them work overtime. Let's hope it can clean up the process before the Postal Service runs out of money.
Update: This article wasn't as clear as it could have been, which caused some people to misinterpret my view and think that I am blaming the unions. I was being sarcastic; I certainly don't blame the postal unions for telling the truth. I was trying to point out that the unions are addressing a problem that management should be eager to solve.
Other articles on the Postal Service's problems with retirement benefits include: