The United States Postal Service has been delivering mail since 1775, and as the recession continues its grip on our economy, the Postal Service is taking measures to make sure that it’s two century old service continues.
The Postal Service is projecting a $238 billion shortfall over the next decade, not to mention a current decline in volumes, and significant budget cuts.
Many ideas have been proposed on how to combat these shortcomings, but perhaps the most controversial is the move to a five-day delivery, cutting out Saturday deliveries.
“We’re on a path where we are not going to be able to cover our costs,” said Richard Maher, spokesman for the USPS in Southern California. “In order to maintain a viable universal postal service to every resident some changes have to be made.”
Moving to the five-day week would force the USPS to cut 40,000 jobs nation-wide, but Maher says that they can easily make those cuts through attrition.
“Within the next five years about half of our employees will be eligible to retire, so we’re in a good position to implement something like this,” said Maher
The change would be the largest change to the USPS structure since 1950 when they reduced residential deliveries to one a day.
The USPS is required to prepay future retiree health benefits before they are due.
If the five-day week were to be established it would not effect express mail, which is delivered seven days a week, and would keep Post offices open on Saturdays to accept packages and distribute P.O Box mail.
Maher says that the Postal Service unions are not happy with the proposed cuts, but he says that based on a Gallup poll the public favors the five-day week over raising rates or degrading the service.
“We don’t think it’s a good idea because it doesn’t solve the problem of the Postal Services finances,” said Drew Von Bergen, Director of Public Relations for the National Association of Letter Carriers. “We need major stakeholders, mailers, unions, the Postal Service and Congress to sit down and very carefully map out a strategy.”
A solution that the NALC and the USPS agree on is for congress to change the requirement that the Postal Service prefund retiree health benefits.
This service costs the USPS $5 billion dollars a year, according to Maher.
Congress is required to vote on any changes that are presented by both sides.
The proposed changes are being presented to the Postal Regulatory Commission for their opinion, and will then be voted on by Congress. Maher says that they are still more than nine months out from making any decision.
“If they cut the delivery week now to five, what’s to say in the future they won’t just cut it to four,” said Von Bergen. “This change could affect the whole dynamic of the Postal Service.”
The NALC is one of four major Postal Service unions and represents more than 200,000 active city delivery letter carriers.