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Postal Service consolidates administrative operations

In its ongoing effort to streamline operations, the Postal Service Friday announced plans to consolidate administrative functions in five districts. Roughly 650 employees, mainly managers, will be affected, as well as about 125 unionized workers.

The plan is to merge similar office jobs in the areas of human resources, clerical support and financial management.

"We think a lot of these functions can be absorbed into neighboring districts," said agency spokesman Gerald McKiernan.

Through the consolidation, the Long Beach, Calif., office will merge into the Los Angeles and Santa Ana office. The San Jose District will become part of the Oakland, Sacramento and Van Nuys district. In the Northeast area, Springfield, Mass., will merge with the New Hampshire office. And, in the Eastern area, Akron will be folded into operations for Cincinnati and Cleveland; while the Lancaster, Pa., office will become part of the Philadelphia and Harrisburg district.

The affected union employees will be reassigned based on their collective bargaining agreements. The supervisors can apply-and compete against each other-for positions in other districts. The Postal Service also has asked the Office of Personnel Management for authority to offer the managers early retirement. OPM recently granted such authority for employees represented by the American Postal Workers Union.

"This is just the beginning of things to come," said Vincent Palladino, president of the National Association of Postal Supervisors. "They are going to continue with these consolidations, but try to do it in a way so they can maintain operations. They'll look for ways to absorb functions into other districts."

While concerned that supervisor positions are being eliminated-largely through attrition-Palladino acknowledged that the moves are necessary.

"The Postal Service is in deep trouble," he said. "We are going to be smaller, but it is better than not being around at all."

How aggressively the Postal Service continues its consolidation campaign may depend on pending recommendations from a presidential commission charged with studying ways to reform the agency. Having studied the agency for the past six months, the commission will reveal some of its thinking at a July 16 meeting. Four commission subcommittees will share their recommendations for retooling everything from labor-management relations to closing postal facilities. A final report is due to President Bush July 31.