Monday, October 26, 2015

Prospects Dim for USPS Early-Retirement Offers

U.S. Postal Service employees waiting for incentives to retire early shouldn’t get their hopes up.

“It is unclear if USPS will continue to use separation incentives to reduce the size of its career workforce,” says a new Congressional Research Service report, “U.S. Postal Service Workforce Size and Employment Categories, FY 1995-FY2014.”

The Postal Service’s latest five-year plan, updated in April 2013, “included a goal to reduce its career workforce to approximately 404,000 employees through attrition by 2017” which would represent a 17.3% decrease (84,300 fewer employees) from FY2014 staffing levels,” the report says.

USPS staff told the CRS this month that it’s working on a new five-year plan, which the researchers said “might contain new strategies for increasing the cost efficiency of the workforce, including the alteration or removal of workforce reduction goals.” Translation: “Postal officials acknowledged they have abandoned their impossible staff-reduction goal and therefore aren’t likely to offer early-retirement incentives any time soon."

USPS shed about 92,000 career workers from FY2010 to FY2013, with more than half receiving such incentives as Voluntary Early Retirement (VERA) and cash bonuses of up to $20,000. But the only early outs in FY2014 involved 1,380 postmasters, and the number of career employees has actually inched up in the past year.

An ecommerce-fueled rise in the USPS’s package business, slower decreases in traditional mail volumes, and apparent abandonment of a plan to curtail Saturday delivery have made obsolete the goal of shrinking to 404,000 careerists. After teetering on the edge of insolvency a couple of years ago, the Postal Service has recently operated on a slightly cash-positive basis despite backing off on workforce-reduction efforts.

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