USPS Is Converting Part-Time Workers Into Full-Time Employees

David Goldman/AP File Photo

This story has been updated with additional information from the union.

To reduce labor costs, the U.S. Postal Service in recent years has hired more part-time workers to meet its staffing needs, allowing the agency to substantially cut pay and benefits expenditures.

That trend is shifting, however, as USPS has begun rewarding some part timers by offering them career positions.

Thanks in large part to an agreement between the Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers, unfilled vacancies must now go to non-career workers. In the two months since the agreement took effect, between 1,500 and 2,000 part-time employees have been converted to full-time status, according to NALC. The memorandum of understanding gives full-time letter carriers without a current duty assignment first crack at a new job posting. If no such employee makes a bid, the position is then opened up to part-time workers interested in becoming career employees. Through these measures, NALC hopes to convert most of the non-career workers it represents -- about 35,000 -- into full-time status by the end of its current collective bargaining agreement, which expires after 2016.

The American Postal Workers Union also has provisions in its collective bargaining agreement to transition part-time workers -- known as postal support employees -- into full-time employees. More than 1,000 have made the switch since the agreement was ratified in 2011, according to union spokeswoman Sally Davidow, 400 of whom did so within the last few months.

Lew Drass, NALC’s city delivery director, called on his members to report any residual vacancies to national offices to facilitate the process.

Prior to their conversions, the newly full-time letter carriers served in the non-career position of “city carrier assistant.” Many of them had previously served as “transitional employees” as well, according to NALC.

Finding NALC’s goal of about 20,000 openings for the non-career workers could prove difficult for the union, as the Postal Service continues to reduce its workforce. Through attrition measures such as buyouts and early retirement incentives, USPS has shed about 200,000 jobs over the past several years. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has said it will need to trim an additional 100,000 -- the Postal Service currently employs about 500,000 workers -- in order to regain sound fiscal footing.

Donahoe has announced plans to achieve those cuts without layoffs by 2017, at which point the agency would resume hiring.  

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