Eric Risberg/AP

USPS estimates 7,400 employees may take buyout offers

Thousands who signed up by the July 2 deadline still can change their minds.

Thousands of postmasters and full-time mail handlers have taken the first step toward accepting buyout and early retirement offers from the U.S. Postal Service, as the agency attempts to reduce its ranks through attrition to restore it to solvency.

According to USPS spokesman Mark Saunders, as many as 7,400 postmasters and full-time mail carriers signed up for the offers by the July 2 deadline. While these employees can still change their minds, USPS estimates between 3,800 and 4,200 postmasters will take the $20,000 buyout incentive available to them, and 2,800 to 3,200 full-time mail handlers are expected to take a $15,000 buyout.

USPS previously announced plans to whittle down its workforce to help generate about $500 million in savings, mostly through attrition and through the separation incentives it has offered to its 21,000 postmasters and its 43,000 full-time mail handlers.

Full-time career employees who take the buyout will receive half their payment at the end of 2012 and the other half in 2013. USPS officials have said the agency will work with employees who take buyouts and are interested in other opportunities within the Postal Service. There are no plans for layoffs.

The agency also is offering part-time retirement programs to early retirees, a plan the American Postal Workers Union recently criticized. The union claims that reducing hours and switching career postmasters to noncareer, postmaster relief positions violates the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

USPS plans to reduce hours at approximately 13,000 rural post offices. Postmasters at those locations would switch to part-time work, with moderated or no benefits as noncareer postmaster reliefs. USPS disputes that this change would violate the collective bargaining agreement.

The Postal Regulatory Commission will hold a special meeting July 11 to consider USPS’ plan for adjusting its retail network and hours. It previously requested additional details on the data used to develop the plan. Jeffrey Day, a manager at agency’s office of delivery and operations will testify. The commission recently denied a motion from APWU requesting an emergency order halting plans to reduce hours.

“The potential harm to the Postal Service from a preliminary injunction outweighs the potential harm to mailers from not issuing a preliminary injunction,” the commission’s ruling stated.

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