• on Jul 19th, 2013 in Labor | 40 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 Dec 24th, 2012 in OIG | 0 comments
    Pushing the Envelope wishes our readers a joyful holiday season and a prosperous new year. We will take a break this week, but we encourage you to read over the past year’s blogs and let us know what you think on any of the wide range of topics we blogged on in 2012. We also want to remind you to visit the site next Monday when we will post our list of the Top 10 Stories of the Year. As always, we look forward to your comments and insights.
  • on Oct 22nd, 2012 in OIG | 2 comments
    Since the launch of “Pushing the Envelope” in October of 2008, we have been blogging on topics of interest to U.S. Postal Service stakeholders and the general public. We’ve published 212 blogs to date (this one makes 213). Since it is our birthday, we thought we’d take this time to reflect on the last year and to look to the future. First, thanks to our active readers who provide insightful commentary and food for thought. Your ideas and comments can turn into audit projects, white papers, or even the need to turn something over to our Office of Investigations. Our top five blogs this last year were: •Mail Delivery: Are These Steps Unnecessary?What’s the Score?Why Saturday?How Far Does Your 44 Cents Go?Who Should Pay for Mail Forwarding? The major interest in these blogs reflects the entire mailing community’s concern about the Postal Service’s finances and the long-term solutions for reinventing its business model. In your comments, you have not only conveyed your concerns, you have suggested new ideas and recommendations for solutions as well. We will continue to feature similar issues in the year to come in our ongoing effort to foster high-level discussion and interaction with the Postal Service stakeholder community. In March, we tried something new and hosted a 5-week guest blog series on the “Five Elements of a Postal Solution”. Guest commentators from inside and outside the postal community shared their views on the Posal Service’s mission, infrastructure, its role in the Digital Age, and federal mandates. The success of this series has prompted us to consider other novel ways to engage the public. Our older blogs also continue to generate new discussions. We’ve found our readers are interested in a wide range of postal topics, from workplace rules that seem to make little sense to the very broad category of ideas to help the Postal Service. •Brainstorm Ideas to Help the Postal ServiceThe OIG Wants to Know How You Feel About Sick LeaveSilly RulesNationwide Wage Uniformity As the Postal Service becomes leaner and more flexible and as it tries to connect with the younger generation, we will have no shortage of topics. In the year ahead, look for us to discuss important issues, including postal operations, customer service, digital solutions, workplace concerns, and the future of the postal system. We are also interested in hearing the specific topics you would like us to blog about. Some of our best ideas have come from our readers, so let us know in the comment section below. Thanks again for reading.

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