Postal unions offer alternative to five-day schedule

Unions tell lawmakers that retiree health benefit prepayment mandate is hurting USPS\'s profitability and should be ended.

By Rachel Stevens
Federal News Radio

The Postal Service’s employee unions are speaking out against a USPS proposal to cut Saturday service.

They are asking to instead focus on the Postal Service’s mandatory retiree health benefit prepayments, which cost USPS as much as $5.8 billion a year, as an area to save money for the troubled agency.

Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that included this provision. USPS currently is the only agency with this prepayment mandate.

Frederic Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, says this burden is the “primary cause of the postal crisis.”

Several other members of the postal unions echoed Rolando’s comments Wednesday at a joint hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security and the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia.

Without the prepayment mandate, Rolando says USPS would have been profitable three out of the last four years.

Although the USPS proposal includes a commitment to eliminating prepayments, union officials say the five-day schedule is a deal breaker.

“We should not even seriously engage in discussion of this proposal,” says William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union. “No service-oriented business can grow by reducing service.”

Representatives of several mail-based companies, such as, Hallmark and a prescription drug distributer also used the hearing to denounce the five-day schedule.

A representative from Netflix, however, said the change would be acceptable if it keeps USPS afloat.

Rachel Stevens is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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