• on Aug 9th, 2010 in Labor | 6 comments
    5,214 workers died on the job in the U.S. in 2008 "With every one of these fatalities, the lives of a worker's family members were shattered and forever changed. We can't forget that fact." -Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor
    Safety is a key component of all Postal Service operations, activities, and facilities. Nonetheless, safety issues do occur in the Postal Service as in other organizations. Recently, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors found electrical safety violations in several Postal Service Processing and Distribution Facilities (P&DCs). Electrical Safety issues at Postal P&DCs identified by OSHA include: •Electricity problems in facilities •Failure to adequately lock out machines' power sources to prevent unexpected start-ups •Inadequate training for employees exposed to electrical hazards •Failure to provide electrical protective equipment to protect employees from arc-flash hazards and electrical current •Failure to use appropriate safety signs, safety symbols or accident prevent tags to warn employees about electrical hazards As a result of the findings, OSHA has announced that it will inspect the over 300 P&DCs nationwide. But OSHA does not consider only electricity–related safety. Other areas of concern include: •Employee workplace rights •Chemical Hazard Communication •How To Prepare For Workplace Emergencies •Personal Protective Equipment •Biological agents There are also many instances of praise for the Postal Service from OSHA including: A 2009 inspection for safety levels at the El Paso Postal Distribution Center that resulted in merit recognition in the Voluntary Protection Programs for its employee health and safety achievements. Also in 2009, the Postal Service's Evergreen Detached Carrier Unit in Hillsboro, OR, received OSHA's highest safety recognition award. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Audit Engineering and Facilities team.
  • on Jul 5th, 2010 in Labor | 37 comments
    One area identified in the Postal Service’s action for the future is to increase workforce flexibility. A larger, part-time work force would give postal management the flexibility to increase or decrease employees depending on mail volume. Although this change is not as drastic as closing postal facilities or switching to 5-day delivery, it raises questions about what a part-time postal workforce would look like. The Postal Service has fewer part-time employees than any other international postal operation. Currently only 13 percent of its workforce is part-time. Meanwhile, Deutsche Post employs a 40 percent part-time staff, while the United Kingdom’s Royal Mail employs 22 percent. Local competitors also have a higher percentage of part-time employees. For example, UPS employs a 53 percent part-time workforce and FedEx remains around 40 percent. Generally speaking, the Postal Service is behind the average American private sector firm, which employs a 30 percent part-time labor workforce.

    Is there a downside to employing a larger part-time workforce? Critics argue that part-time employees are less loyal to their employers, and as a result, they increase ”quasi-fixed” costs associated with recruiting, training, and oversight. However, recent findings call these assertions into question. A study in the Annual Review of Sociology found that part-time employees are just as likely as full-time employees to view their jobs as a “central life activity” and to be “equally committed to their organizations.” Moreover, the study also mentioned that employees’ demand for part-time jobs has increased since the 1980s, as the American workforce has increasingly desired job flexibility. Increasing the number of part-time postal employees would make the Postal Service more flexible in the face of declining mail volumes, seasonal fluctuations, and market volatility. For more information visit Newsweek story on part time workers. UPS info blog. A look at FedEx labor unrest. What do you think about the Postal Service’s idea to increase its part-time workforce? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on May 3rd, 2010 in Labor | 11 comments
    The Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) is one of the retirement programs of the U.S. government, and benefits are extended to U.S. Postal Service employees. FERS is administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Congress established the guidelines for OPM to set contribution rates and can alter them by passing new law or amending an existing law. Postal Service employees who began their careers after December 31, 1983, are automatically enrolled in the FERS. For Postal Service employees, a majority of FERS funding is accomplished through Postal Service contributions. The rest is paid by postal employees. During fiscal year 2009, the Postal Service contributed $3 billion to FERS or 11.2 percent of the salaries for FERS employees. As of September 30, 2009, the Postal Service reported a fully funded FERS pension plan that exceeds liabilities by $6.8 billion.

    It’s no secret the Postal Service is in a financial crisis after a $3.8 billion loss in 2009, and a projected $7 billion loss for 2010 after approximately $4 billion in cost reductions. In January 2010, the OIG reported that the Postal Service had been overcharged for FERS’s sister retirement plan, the Civil Service Retirement System or CSRS, by $75 billion. There is a complication that may reduce the FERS surplus in the future. President Obama recently signed a bill granting credit for unused sick leave for FERS retirees. The exact effect on the pension liability is unknown, but it doesn’t take an actuary to understand that it creates an additional future obligation. If the Postal Service has met its current financial obligations for FERS, should it be relieved of its future contributions? What do you think? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Office of Audit Financial Reporting team.

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