• on Jun 10th, 2013 in Labor | 11 comments

    The national agreements between the U.S. Postal Service and two of its unions give the Postal Service greater flexibility to use non-career employees for clerk and mail handler duties. The Postal Service pressed for the new employee categories in its separate labor negotiations with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the National Mail Handlers Union, because it wanted greater workforce flexibility in scheduling and aligning employees with the work available. The Postal Service expects this will allow it to reduce labor costs, which currently make up about 80 percent of total costs.

    With the APWU, the Postal Service has already begun to utilize the two new employee categories created under their National Agreement, which include postal support employees and non-traditional full-time employees. The provision on new employee categories in the National Mail Handlers Union’s agreement does not take effect until August, but it will allow for similar type of workers to be used. These workers will start at a lower hourly wage and will have limited benefits.

    The number of Postal Service career employees has declined steadily over the past decade. As of early 2013 the Postal Service had just over 500,000 career employees, down from 729,000 in Fiscal Year 2003. Recent buyout offers have spurred a wave of retirements and moved the Postal Service closer to its goal of further reducing its workforce by 150,000 employees by 2015. Unlike previous reduction-in-workforce efforts, the Postal Service now has the flexibility to hire part-time employees. By shifting more work to lower-paid employees with less expensive benefits, the Postal Service is hoping to move the needle on its labor costs.

    A recent OIG audit report on the use of part-time employees in processing operations found that the Postal Service is increasing its use of these part-time positions, but it has not hired them to the fullest extent allowed by the contract. It could have saved more than $30 million in labor costs last year if it had hired postal support employees up to contract limits.

    Time will tell if the new workforce flexibility significantly reduces labor costs. But our early audit work suggests savings are available. What is your experience with the changes in the types of employees and how they are used? Is mail processed as efficiently, more efficiently, or less efficiently using postal support employees and non-traditional full-time employees? Have there been any unexpected effects (positive or negative) of the changes? Has overtime usage increased or decreased as a result of using part-time and non-traditional full-time employees?

  • on Jun 3rd, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 1 comment

    Powerful forces like globalization and the digital revolution are changing how, when, and where things are produced, purchased, and delivered. Look at how our shopping habits have changed in just the past few years. With your smartphone or tablet you can shop anytime, anyplace. Offshore production trends are reversing, and some manufacturing jobs are returning to the United States. And major urban areas continue to grow and link into a global transportation supergrid that connects people, commerce, and ideas. If you’re left off the grid, you could find yourself disconnected from the new global economy.

    The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General recently released a white paper discussing the new logistics revolution and all the challenges and opportunities it presents — The Global Logistics Revolution: A Pivotal Moment for the Postal Service. The paper asks, in the face of all these changes, how can we make sure citizens and commerce continue to thrive? Perhaps postal organizations – here and around the world – have a key role to play. Some foreign posts already provide an array of logistics services ranging from comprehensive warehousing to customized, end-to-end cross-border and returns solutions that better serve customers and the new global economy. For some of these posts, these “value-added” logistics services are providing a new revenue stream to offset steep declines in traditional mail volume.

    The Postal Service is also well positioned to move into the large and fast-growing logistics market. With its extensive first and last-mile reach to nearly every household and business in the United States and mission to “bind the nation together” through communications and commerce, the Postal Service is unmatched in keeping communities connected. Either on its own or by partnering with private sector companies, the Postal Service could offer a range of new services and products to meet the evolving needs of citizens and business across the country. A service could be as basic as comprehensive track and trace to more complex offerings like warehousing solutions. If the Postal Service does not at least keep up with emerging customer expectations for improved and expanded logistics services, it could jeopardize its position in the evolving expedited and small package market.

    We encourage you to read the white paper to learn about how the Postal Service could respond to the Global Logistics Revolution and then weigh in with your thoughts below.

    Do you think that the Postal Service’s ability to offer new, value-added logistics services could help respond to customers’ changing needs?

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