USPS hiring strategy helped reduce overtime last holiday season, IG finds

The Postal Service’s workforce and facility strategy to prepare for last year’s peak holiday operations led to higher performance and less overtime.

The USPS inspector general, in a report released Friday, found service performance increased for all five major mail classes during the fiscal 2022 peak season, compared to the same period the year prior.

Service performance improved across several categories — including priority mail, first-class packages, first-class mail, marketing mail and periodicals — compared to the year prior.

The IG report found USPS reduced the amount of overtime paid out this peak season, compared to the previous year.

The USPS IG redacted many of the agency’s service performance metrics in the public version of its report, but states in general terms that the agency’s earlier-than-usual holiday preparations led to improve performance.

“In response to the decrease of service performance that occurred during the FY 2021 peak season, Postal Service management executed a new year-round strategy in preparation for peak seasons by implementing permanent operational changes,” the report states.

The report generally supports the Postal Service’s own year-end findings that it provided a significantly higher level of service this year, compared to the widespread mail and package delays it saw in December 2020.

USPS hired more than 51,000 temporary employees to prepare for its busy year-end period. Of those, it hired 43,000 processing employees and 8,000 retail and delivery employees.

USPS also converted more than 63,000 pre-career employees to career positions, in an effort to reduce workforce turnover.

The IG report found USPS maintained about an 80% level of employee availability, approximately the same level of staffing it had for the fiscal 2021 holiday season.

The Postal Service, during its busiest season, saw an uptick in COVID-19 quarantines among its workforce last year.

The American Postal Workers Union told Federal News Network in late December that at one point, more than 65,000 employees were out of work because of COVID-19 infection or exposure.

Those figures, however, amount to less than half of the 19,000 postal workers who were under quarantine in December 2020.

USPS management told the IG’s office that employee availability decreased in January 2022 because of the attrition of the peak season temporary employees.

USPS also took several steps to prepare its facilities for the year-end rush.

USPS also installed 89 package sorting machines between July and November 2021. The additional machines enabled the Postal Service to meet its goal to increase the daily package processing capacity.

It also leased 46 package support annexes and 51 temporary mail processing and logistics annexes.

Beyond the holiday crush of mail and packages, USPS also relied on leased annexes to start issuing free COVID-19 rapid tests to households.

USPS has delivered at least 380 million free tests through the program so far.

The rollout of the operation has won praise from the administration and the public, USPS behind the scenes went to great lengths to make the program a success.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, in an interview earlier this year, said USPS executives joined the White House and several key agencies in phone calls outlining the plan in the days leading up to Christmas.

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