The U.S. Postal Service’s shift to a more flexible workforce has reduced average hourly pay, but adding so many new employees has also hindered productivity gains.
At last report, the “straight-time” pay of postal employees was averaging $25.63 per hour in FY2013, down 1.4% from $25.98 a year earlier. Despite a big jump in overtime hours, even the average total hourly pay had dropped slightly during the year.
Most employees had small wage increases, but the hourly averages were dragged down by temps and other non-career employees who replaced retiring workers.
USPS’s career workforce decreased by 37,000 during FY2013, while 26,000 non-career employees were added, the agency said in its recently released annual report to Congress.
More than one in five postal workers is now a non-career employee, versus less than one in six only a year earlier.
“We hired and trained many new non-career employees and this cost many workhours,” the annual report said. “The learning curve for these workers caused us to use more hours as they gained experience (although at a lower wage).”
USPS hoped to boost deliveries per work hour from 41.0 to 42.7 during FY2013, but the annual report said it fell short partly because so many new employees had to be brought up to speed. Having more mail volume than anticipated (a decline of less than 1%, versus 5% the previous year) also hurt productivity, despite improving USPS’s finances, the report noted. The report does not discuss another productivity measure -- mail pieces delivered per work hour -- but that appears to have changed little during the year.
Downsizing of the workforce, consolidation of facilities and carrier routes, and greater automation are helping USPS work more productively. But the growing volume of labor-intensive parcels, though profitable, tends to mean slower deliveries, as does the increasing number of delivery points.
Employees also claim that staff reductions sometimes backfire because they can leave postal facilities with the wrong mix of positions and experience. Letter carriers have been especially vociferous about changes that have inadvertently hurt their productivity, such as having to work longer days and to make more deliveries in the dark. At last report, overtime among the city-carrier force was on track to increase more than 11% over FY 2012.