Thousands of USPS mail handlers and postmasters accept separation incentives

Damian Dovarganes/AP file photo

Nearly 3,000 U.S. Postal Service mail handlers and more than 4,000 postmasters have opted for separation incentives the agency offered as part of its efforts to save money by reducing its ranks.

According to USPS spokesman Mark Saunders, 2,952 mail handlers accepted the agency’s offer of $15,000 to leave voluntarily, and 4,189 postmasters accepted its offer of $20,000. The total came close to the 7,400 postmasters and full-time mail carriers the agency predicted in July would sign up for the incentives.

The new numbers are final, Saunders said.

The incentives are part of USPS’ plans to whittle down its workforce to help generate about $500 million in savings. It also expects to downsize through attrition. The agency offered the incentives to 21,000 postmasters and its 43,000 full-time mail handlers.

Full-time career employees opting to leave will receive half their payment at the end of 2012 and the other half in 2013.

USPS also is offering part-time retirement programs to early retirees. Earlier this week, USPS announced plans to offer more than 110,000 career employees represented by the American Postal Workers Union up to $15,000 to voluntarily retire or leave the agency. The full $15,000 is available for APWU-represented clerks, mechanics, vehicle drivers, custodians and administrators who have worked 1,520 paid hours in the 26 pay periods prior to the date of their departure; part-time employees can receive a prorated portion of the $15,000.

USPS’ financial outlook remains bleak. The agency defaulted last week on a $5.6 billion congressionally mandated obligation to prefund retiree health benefits, marking the second time in two months it defaulted on its payments; the agency also failed to pay $5.5 billion for fiscal 2011 prefunding obligations, originally due to the Treasury Department in September 2011.

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