• 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 Dec 17th, 2012 in Delivery & Collection | 29 comments
    The U.S. Postal Service delivery workforce consists of city and rural letter carriers, who perform similar duties, but have differences in compensation and work rules. City letter carriers typically work routes that are high density and low mileage. These routes are classified as either “mounted” routes (for those that require a vehicle) or “walking” routes (for those that are done on foot). City letter carriers are also given a $371 per year uniform allowance. Rural letter carriers typically work routes that have a lower density of delivery points and higher mileage than those of city letter carriers. They work mounted routes, leaving their vehicles only to deliver to grouped mailboxes or to deliver an item that must be taken to a customer's door. However, rural routes have expanded to suburbs and exurbs, which are more densely populated and urbanized. These routes are similar to mounted “city” routes. Because suburban areas in the country continue to flourish, the rural carrier craft is the only craft in the Postal Service still growing. Postal Service policy states that rural carriers must present a neat, clean, and professional appearance reflecting a positive postal image, but does not require rural carriers to wear uniforms like their city counterparts. The 114,000 rural carriers and non-career rural carrier associates serve as a post office on wheels. They perform many of the services that a customer could receive at a retail counter. They sell stamps and money orders; provide Priority Mail flat rate boxes; accept Express and Priority mail; offer signature and delivery confirmation; and collect mail and parcels. Rural carriers provide their own vehicles to deliver mail on nearly half of the more than 73,000 rural routes. Now that the rural carrier craft is becoming more "urbanized," they are more visible to the public. Also, the past few years has seen an increase in the number of rural carriers delivering mail in Postal Service vehicles with the logo on the side. Do you think a uniformed shirt for rural carriers would be an overall positive change for the Postal Service as far as image, branding, marketing, and security? Would a uniformed shirt for rural carriers give employees a larger sense of unity and ownership to the mission of the Postal Service? Or is the idea of a uniform old-fashioned?
  • on Dec 10th, 2012 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 0 comments
    To borrow a saying often attributed to Yogi Berra, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Whenever people make estimates about liabilities for long- term expenses, such as pension and retiree health payments, they’re making predictions about the future. The problem is that predictions are based on the present, and the present is always changing. Since 1992, the Postal Service has had a surplus in the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) program, according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). A surplus occurs when assets exceed the amount of the liability. In October, the OIG released a white paper called Causes of the Postal Service FERS Surplus. The paper, produced with the assistance of Hay Group actuarial firm, examined the reasons behind the FERS surplus. Hay Group found that the surplus had emerged in part because of differences between the Postal Service and the rest of the federal government and recommended using assumptions based just on the Postal Service population rather than everyone in FERS. Hay Group developed an estimate of the surplus under Postal Service-specific assumptions. After the OIG released the paper, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a new estimate of the FERS surplus as it does every autumn. In this new estimate, OPM used a different prediction for future interest rates and also made changes to demographic assumptions such as how long postal employees and retirees will live. OPM’s estimate of the FERS surplus declined substantially. To take into account this new information, the OIG asked Hay Group to update their previous estimate of the surplus to reflect OPM’s assumption changes and new 2011 data. Hay Group also included the most recent Postal Service-service forecasts about future salary increases. Hay Group found the projected surplus under Postal Service-specific assumptions to be $12.48 billion as of fiscal year (FY) 2012; whereas OPM, using FERS-wide assumptions, projected the surplus to be $3.0 billion.In either case, the Postal Service’s FERS fund is more than 100 percent funded, while Fortune 1000 companies are on average only 80 percent funded according to 2010 data. You can read more about the FERS surplus in the update to the original paper on our website.

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