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Postal Service looks for ways to save money - Fallbrook employees may see reduced benefits, hours if change is implemented

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has asked Congress to consider changing the Service’s work week from six days to five as a way to save money for an industry that is rapidly losing money. However, it may be several months before a plan for change can even be considered.

“We can’t make changes or decisions about the workweek without the approval of Congress, said Eva Jackson, a representative from the San Diego branch of USPS. “Any changes that have already been made have been made for efficiency and streamlining.”

According to Jackson, the mail volume throughout the country has dropped drastically within the last decade. In 2006, the national mail volume was at 213 billion pieces of mail. However, by 2009, mail had dropped 17 percent to 177 billion pieces.

“By 2020, we expect to see another 15 percent drop in the national mail volume down to 150 billion pieces,” said Jackson. “While we see a drop in revenue, our fixed costs are growing and increasing. It costs a lot of money for gas, since we have the largest vehicle fleet in the country. Paying for electricity costs a great deal for us as well. Just like other businesses, we have to find somewhere to cut back from.”

The drop in volume has been felt in Fallbrook’s Post Office as well.

“The biggest bulk mailer we have is the [Village News newspaper], while other North County offices have well over $2 million in bulk mailings a month,” said one employee. “There is no industrial business coming out of this town. Fallbrook maybe has 10 bulk mailers, while other cities like Oceanside have hundreds.”

The Postal Act of 2006 also takes a hefty chunk out of the Post Office’s revenue, said Jackson. For each employee that works for the Post Office, the retiree health fund must be prepaid every year.

“That’s $5.6 billion overall for employees,” said Jackson. “While it’s nice to have that there, it would be like asking a kindergartener to put down $1,000 a month to pre-finance a house.” Alongside the one day decrease in service, Jackson stated that the post office will see a price increase of two cents for mailing in 2011.

“The Postal Regulation Commission didn’t require an increase last year, so this will be the third increase in two years,” said Jackson.

While delivery frequency may drop by a day, Jackson stated that other measures would be taken so that customers of the United States Postal Service wouldn’t be further inconvenienced.

“We have worked to begin putting partnerships into place with companies such as Office Depot, which have longer business hours than we do,” said Jackson. “These types of stores close at 9 p.m. while we close at 5 p.m., so people don’t have to just run in at lunch. We are also installing automated postal centers, which are kiosks that provide stamps and other necessary mailing materials in the larger post office PO Box rooms. These can be accessed at all hours.”

The USPS is also looking at how its employees will be affected by the workweek decrease, and how many employees will be needed to man the offices properly.

“We currently are trying to establish a flexible workforce,” explained Jackson. “We currently have 300,000 full-time employees across the country that will soon be eligible for retirement. If we move towards the flexible workforce, then we will be able to hire part time employees.”

The Post Office also hopes to add other products and services to what it can offer customers as a way to beckon them back from their competitors.

“We have already begun using the priority flat rate box, but in order to implement more changes, we must submit the changes with the Commission, which may take anywhere from six to nine months,” said Jackson. “It’s a long process.”

However, some of the Fallbrook Post Office employees are not happy about the changes, and feel that the change from full-time employee status to part-time could have serious repercussions.

“There are several employees that have been pushed to retire, and have been offered $15,000 to retire, but there will be no one to replace them,” said an employee of the Fallbrook office, who asked not to be identified. “They want to get those who are on the old contract, with benefits and overtime, out of there. If I work over eight hours, I’ll get paid overtime, but if someone is brought in and is part time, they won’t be.”

Still, the public does not seem to mind the one day drop, said Jackson.

“USA Today did a poll earlier this year, and most people didn’t seem to mind if the post office was closed on Saturdays,” she said.

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