USPS Supervisors Are Doing Work Reserved for Unionized Employees, Costing Agency Millions

Toby Talbot/AP file photo

The U.S. Postal Service is allowing salaried supervisors to conduct work set aside for union employees, according to a new report, forcing the agency to waste millions of dollars annually on unnecessary payments.

An agreement between the American Postal Workers Union and USPS in 2014 that settled a 40-year dispute between labor and management capped the number of hours a postmaster or supervisor at certain post offices can spend performing work typically reserved for bargaining unit employees at 15 per week. When the management workers surpass that threshold, the Postal Service is forced to pay the corresponding hourly wages to a clerk picked out by the union.

Even if that employee was on leave or would therefore be collecting overtime, USPS must make the payment.

The USPS inspector general released a management advisory report on Monday that found postmasters and supervisors worked 83,000 hours over the threshold in the first nine months since the agreement was reached in late 2014, which has cost the Postal Service $11.2 million in payments to clerks. The IG said the payments were, in some cases, “unnecessary and fraudulent.”

Individual clerks earned up to nearly $32,000 in hourly pay they did not work, the IG found. The payments occurred in more than 90 percent of Postal Service districts.

The inspector general gave postal management some credit for reducing the overages; supervisors spent 65 percent fewer hours doing bargaining unit work from Oct. 1, 2015 to March 1, 2016.

Still, the auditors said postal management “did not effectively manage workhours for postmasters and supervisors performing bargaining unit work to ensure they complied with the agreement and controlled costs.”

USPS took issue with that suggestion, saying the agency has worked since the days after the APWU agreement to develop processes to ensure supervisors and postmasters stayed within the agreed upon threshold. The IG disagreed, saying management’s initial communication efforts were ineffective and it must monitor staffing, workhours and payments to reduce unnecessary payments.

To that end, the IG recommended the Postal Service fill vacancies so managers are not required to do clerk work and provide clearer guidance to its field network. Even when the supervisors cross the threshold, USPS can in some cases avoid the payments to unionized clerks if it is determined the work was conducted during an emergency -- a provision the IG said USPS has ignored. 

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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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