Keep rural post offices open, but cut employee hours and benefits, USPS says

Megan Brennan, USPS chief operating officer, says rural post offices will not be closed without 'a viable solution.' Megan Brennan, USPS chief operating officer, says rural post offices will not be closed without 'a viable solution.' USPS

The U.S. Postal Service announced plans Wednesday to reduce operating hours to enable it to keep open rural post offices previously slated for closure -- a sharp change of course for the cash-strapped agency.

“We will not close any of these rural post offices without having provided a viable solution,” said Megan Brennan, USPS chief operating officer. The agency announced in July 2011 that it would study 3,700 post offices for possible closure. Under the new strategy, it will review an additional 13,000 post offices for potential cost- saving options other than closure.

USPS pledged to continue holding community meetings in rural areas to gather input on which USPS-proposed cost saving options could work for them: contracting with local businesses to set up rural post offices, consolidating with nearby post offices or reducing the operating hours to better match customer use -- the option USPS says is most favored by 54 percent of the rural post offices it reviewed.

The new strategy would be phased in over two years; USPS anticipates saving $500 million a year from it. Although 4,500 rural post offices have been identified as exempt from hour and labor reductions, as many as 9,000 could remain open only two to four hours a day and an additional 4,000 could be cut back to a six-hour workday. Postmasters at reduced-hour locations switch to part-time work, with reduced or no benefits.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said switching workers from full- to part-time work would generate most of the $500 million in identified savings.

“This is a win-win,” Donahoe said. “People said to us, ‘keep our post office open.’ If we shrink labor costs, we can keep it open.”

The agency also is offering a new $20,000 early-out incentive to full-time career postmasters, who would receive half their payment at the end of 2012 and the other half the following year. Donahoe said the reduced hours proposal was not eligible for union negotiations, but USPS would work with affected employees interested in other opportunities within the Postal Service, such as becoming a letter carrier.

USPS will file the strategy with the Postal Regulatory Commission by the end of May, and there will be no changes in service until after the filing. The agency will still go forward with its plan to consolidate more than 200 mail processing facilities.

Some of the agency’s requests for reform are still hamstrung by a divided Congress. The bill that passed in the Senate in April does not favor closing post offices to save money. Co-sponsor of that legislation, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., called USPS’ new plan a “stopgap, piecemeal measure.”

“This plan does not address some serious issues that continue to drain the Postal Service’s finances every day, including its costly retiree health care payments and past overpayments to the Federal Employee Retirement System -- which total nearly $11 billion,” Carper said in a statement Wednesday. “Moreover, this solution doesn’t go far enough to encourage a responsible reduction in its workforce.”

The House has yet to begin debate on its USPS reform bill, which advocates deeper cuts and post office consolidations and closures. “To achieve real savings creating long-term solvency, the Postal Service needs to focus on consolidation in more populated areas where the greatest opportunities for cost reduction exist,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chief architect of the House bill, said in a statement Wednesday.

“The smallest 10,000 post offices collectively cost USPS less than $600 million to operate each year. That is less than one-eighth of the $5 billion USPS spends each year to operate its network of 32,000 post offices,” he added.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.