Thousands of postmasters take early retirement, buyouts

Almost 3,800 left by the end of July, and hundreds more will follow.

Nearly 3,800 postmasters accepted incentives to leave the U.S. Postal Service as of July 31, and hundreds more plan to join them in the coming weeks.

Postal Service spokesman Mark Saunders told the Federal Times that 3,776 postmasters had elected to leave at the end of July. An additional 95 plan to separate from the agency at the end of August, and another 233 will leave at the end of September. Saunders also said more postmasters could opt into the early retirement and buyout program in the coming weeks. The agency estimated that 7,400 total employees, including the postmasters, would take separation incentives granted in May.

Under a cost-cutting initiative known as the Post Office Structure Plan, thousands of postmasters were facing reduced hours or layoffs. The POStPlan would affect 13,000 post offices, served by 9,500 postmasters. Eligible postmasters received a $20,000 early-out incentive split into payments for 2012 and 2013.

Saunders told the Federal Times that vacant postmaster positions would be filled using internal candidates and job announcements.

USPS is under intense economic pressure. The agency defaulted last week on a $5.5 billion payment to prefund retiree health benefits and likely will miss another payment due in September.

POStPlan has come under some scrutiny, mainly it would severely cut services at rural post offices. These offices form the central social and information hub for many small towns with limited Internet access.