• on Jun 22nd, 2009 in Labor | 14 comments
    It takes a lot of digging to find a positive Hollywood portrayal of postal employees. From Cheers’ Cliff Clavin to Seinfeld’s Newman, TV and the movies have not always portrayed postal employees in the most favorable light. Even Mr. Rogers’ postman sidekick, Mr. McFeeley, was seldom seen actually delivering any mail. “Going postal” was coined and seemed to be a recurring Hollywood theme in the 1990’s, when the movie mills cranked out “Jingle All The Way,” with Sinbad playing a crazed letter carrier, and “Postal Worker”, which portrayed the entire agency as a simmering pot of twisted individuals. And who can forget, “Zarkorr! The Invader,” the Godzilla rip-off, where a Newark postal worker was tasked with fighting this monster — almost as bad as facing a full set of circs (flyers) on a Tuesday after a Monday holiday. What’s at stake? If he fails, the world will be destroyed. There are exceptions. The mail itself is often treated affectionately. The happy ending to Miracle on 34th Street (1947) hinges on the delivery of letters to Santa. In The Shop Around the Corner (1940), Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan work side by side but fall in love through the mail. The Postal Inspectors have also had a good run of positive films, starting in 1936 with Postal Inspector, featuring Bela Lugosi (yes, the same one who starred as Dracula), Appointment with Danger in 1951, and the more recent Showtime Inspectors movies with Lou Gossett and Jonathan Silverman.
    picture of Cliff from Cheers

    Unfortunately, postal employees on the big and small screen are most often portrayed as the Rodney Dangerfield types. No respect. Their heroic deeds of saving a life, or just doing their jobs without fanfare, are rarely aired. The majority of postal employees are dedicated, hard-working individuals. So how did this negative stereotype start? Why do you think postal employees get the short shrift on heroic roles? And what can be done to turn Hollywood around and point them in the right direction?

    This topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Apr 27th, 2009 in Labor | 156 comments
    Career employees earn 4 hours of sick leave for a full pay period (80 hours), or at a rate of 5 percent. Some career employees are currently taking sick leave at approximately the same rate, liquidating their leave bank. The Postal Service’s sick leave absence rate (absenteeism) was 4.3 percent in 2008. This seems high compared to the 1.1 percent rate the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports for employees in the private sector and 1.7 percent rate for employees in the federal sector. So why was the Postal Service’s rate higher? A 2007 private sector survey by CCH Incorporated indicates two thirds (66 percent) of U.S. workers who take unscheduled sick leave do so for reasons other than physical illness, such as personal and/or family issues, stress, or entitlement. Is the Postal Service’s sick leave rate higher because employees call in sick for reasons other than physical illness?

    The Postal Service cannot ignore the $1.4 billion spent on sick leave last year and recognizes that the best person to do the job is the person hired for it rather than a replacement. The Postal Service identified approximately 35,000 employees in 2008 with 20 or more unscheduled absences. That means 5 percent of its employees have nearly one absence for every paycheck! What is the impact on morale to the other 640,026 career employees? Is there something the Postal Service can do to reduce the number of unscheduled absences? We’d like to know how you feel about these issues.

    Please take our survey.

    This blog topic is hosted by OIG Human Capital.

  • on Mar 16th, 2009 in Labor | 15 comments
    The federal government has two main retirement systems. Most employees hired since 1983 fall under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System, known as FERS. Unlike their counterparts under the old system called CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System), FERS employees do not receive any service credit for their unused sick leave upon retirement. As a result, there are concerns that some FERS employees may try to use up as much of their sick leave balance as they can prior to retirement — a practice often called the “FERS Flu.” Because FERS employees are expected to comprise almost the entire federal and Postal Service workforce by 2014, a widespread outbreak of the FERS Flu could have serious consequences. This past December, approximately 1,400 readers of FedSmith.com participated in an on-line survey regarding their attitudes about sick leave usage in the Federal Government. One survey response should raise concerns. Readers were asked, “Is it ethical for a federal employee to use sick leave without having an authorized medical reason for using the leave?” Fully one-third of respondents stated that this was fully ethical, while an additional 11 percent were unsure. Another on-line poll of federal employees was even more troubling. Of the more than 1,100 FERS respondents, more than 75 percent said they planned to use as much sick leave as possible during their last year before retirement. A Congressional Research Service analysis of payroll data on nearly 500,000 employees showed that FERS employees eligible to retire used nearly 35 percent more sick leave than comparable CSRS employees.
    FERS Flu...Is it catching? woman reclining in a hammock

    While the FERS Flu is a problem throughout the federal government, it could be particularly acute for the Postal Service for two reasons. First, much of what the Postal Service does is very time-sensitive. For example, if a letter carrier takes a day of sick leave, someone must perform the work in place of the absent carrier. Often, the Postal Service must replace that work at the higher overtime rate. Second, because Postal Service managers have set aggressive goals to minimize sick leave usage, many FERS Postal Service employees have accumulated very large sick leave balances, and will therefore, have large amounts of sick leave available to use. Legislation that would give service credit to FERS employees for their unused sick leave has been proposed in the current Congress. This legislation passed the House of Representatives during the 110th Congress, but was not taken up by the Senate. What do you think about the risk of FERS Flu for the Postal Service?

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