Despite all the talk of restructuring and downsizing at the U.S. Postal Service, its labor costs have hardly budged in the past year.
With employees working more overtime and relatively few retiring, the agency’s cost of salary and benefits inched down by barely 1% during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. So far this year, the decline is a paltry 0.2% lower than the same time last year. In contrast, USPS projects that its revenues will decrease nearly 3% this fiscal year.
One barrier to cost cutting is a slowing attrition rate. In the Postal Service’s latest employee statistical report, released yesterday, the number of full-time employees had declined by fewer than 13,000 in the past 12 months, versus more than 17,000 in the previous year. Postmaster General Pat Donahoe has indicated that the USPS workforce needs to shrink by about 35,000 employees annually to reach its ideal size of 425,000 in 2015.
The dire need to reduce the workforce has spawned proposals to offer various incentives to employees who retire. But in the short run, such talk is backfiring, giving workers an incentive not to quit but to hold out instead for better retirement packages.
Overtime hours increased 9% during Fiscal Year 2011 even though straight-time hours were down nearly 4%. Once again, the trend in FY2012 is not the Postal Service’s friend: OT is up nearly 12% so far versus the same period last year.
Overtime so far this year is dramatically higher for city carriers, mailhandlers, and supervisors. Full-time city carriers and mail handlers are both averaging about five hours of overtime per week. Meanwhile, city carriers who are “part-time flexible” or “transitional” have been even busier, working more than one hour of overtime for every 6 hours of straight time.
The increased overtime for carriers is consistent with recent reports of carriers working well past dark to serve longer routes and to compensate for hiccups in the Flats Sequencing System.
The Postal Service has managed to keep wage inflation largely in check, with the average straight-time rate rising only 1.2% during FY2011, to $26.18 per hour.
Here are two more noteworthy statistics about the Postal Service workforce: There are 315 employees who are at least 80 years old and 194 with 50 or more years of service. Both numbers are increasing.