• on Jul 19th, 2013 in Labor | 43 comments

    Matching workforce to workload has been a long-term struggle for the U.S. Postal Service. In its banner years, when volume was increasing, the Postal Service often found it difficult to quickly reduce workhours to offset seasonal dips in mail volume. Over the past 6 years, as volumes have steadily declined, the Postal Service has done a better job of matching its work hours to its workload. It has its lowest number of career employees in 25 years and productivity has seen steady cumulative improvement.

    Yet finding that perfect match remains elusive. In recent years, the difficulties are evident in an increased use of overtime hours. In a recent audit report, our auditors found three districts with their highest overtime rates during the past five years, and one district where employees received the highest overtime dollars. In this latter district, the Postal Service paid seven mail handlers between $65,000 and $76,000 each for overtime workhours in FY 2012, resulting in their salaries more than doubling. Overall, overtime hours accounted for more than 7 percent of total workhours in both fiscal years (FY) 2011 and 2012. The rate is well above the Postal Service’s target rate of 5 percent. The Postal Service’s paid overtime costs have been steadily increasing the past 4 years. They totaled $3.5 billion in FY 2012 compared to $2.5 billion in FY 2009.

    The Postal Service uses overtime hours to provide flexibility and meet operational requirements without having to increase overall staffing levels. This has been a useful tool over the past few years, as the Postal Service has consolidated and closed facilities, and seen the departure of thousands of employees. Overtime usage has allowed the Postal Service to quickly adjust its workforce as it transitions to a leaner network and makes the necessary organizational changes.

    Still, the OIG found opportunities for tighter controls on overtime usage. The OIG review of the four districts determined that the Postal Service could reduce overtime usage by establishing a plan to address staffing vacancies, better aligning workforce to workload, and implementing plans that align mail arrival times with carrier schedules so carriers aren’t waiting on mail to arrive at delivery units, then spending overtime hours delivering the mail.

    Please share your thoughts on the Postal Service’s use of overtime. Is it the best tool for managing workhours during consolidations, closures, and realignments?  If not, are there better tools and approaches? What steps do you think the Postal Service could take to  minimize use of overtime pay?

  • on Oct 18th, 2010 in OIG | 20 comments
    Have you ever wanted to contribute to or help develop the issues within an OIG audit? Or have you read an audit report and thought ‘I wish I had the opportunity to share my perspective and additional information with the auditors’? With the addition of the Audit Projects section to our website, now you can provide feedback while the audit is being conducted. The Audit Projects section allows you to review the overview of an audit, contribute information, and send documents during this crucial planning phase. In essence, you become an audit team member for the project! During this planning phase, the audit team learns about the subject, collects a broad range of data, contacts key experts and stakeholders, and develops the specific objectives of the audit. This is the phase when the audit team decides on the breadth and depth of the topic in the report. Input from stakeholders like you helps to ensure the audit report provides useful and relevant data and analyses, and contains relevant and realistic recommendations. To review our current audits in progress, go to our Audit Project Pages and select an audit. There you will find the overview of the audit, along with any current comments. If you would like to know when new audit projects begin, follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook. How do you feel about the OIG allowing the public to comment on audits? Please share your thoughts below and we invite you to visit the Audit Projects section of our website and comment on individual audit projects. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Field Financial-East audit team.
  • on Aug 23rd, 2010 in Labor | 29 comments
    To encourage employees to contribute constructive ideas to enhance customer satisfaction, generate revenue, increase productivity, and improve competitiveness, the Postal Service offers the web-based eIDEAS program. Postal employees can submit ideas online or at a mail processing plant kiosk. The Office of Inspector General recently issued a management advisory report titled eIDEAS Timeliness and Transparency. The audit’s objective was to identify opportunities for the Postal Service to enhance the timeliness of the eIDEAS process and transparency of the resulting management actions. We found that eIDEAS reviews took far too long and management’s resulting actions were not transparent. Our survey of employees revealed that slow evaluations, poor management response, and lack of program transparency inhibited the program’s success. If you are a postal employee or a stakeholder, do you believe you have a way for your suggestions to be heard? Is eIDEAS the best way for employees to communicate their ideas? Whether you are a postal employee or not, do you believe there is a better way to encourage and gather employee input? If so, let us know in the comments section below. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Audit Engineering and Facilities team.

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