• 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 Apr 20th, 2009 in Strategy & Public Policy | 27 comments
    Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 this year, making now an appropriate time for a blog on the Postal Service’s green initiatives. The Postal Service’s environmental efforts fall into many areas including:
    • Packaging — The Postal Service is the nation’s only shipping company to achieve Cradle to Cradle certification for human and environmental health for its premium products’ packaging. The certification means that more than 15,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions are avoided annually.
    • Fuel use — The Postal Service has increased alternative fuel use by 41 percent since 2006, in part by using hybrid and ethanol vehicles and T-3 Motion electric vehicles. In some places, the Postal Service uses foot and even bicycle routes. The Postal Service plans to continue implementing green strategies to further reduce petroleum use by 20 percent over the next 5 years.
    • Facility energy use — The Postal Service has conducted energy audits and reduced energy use at its facilities. By law, it is required to achieve a 30 percent reduction in facility energy use from 2003 levels by 2015.
    • Recycling — The Postal Service annually recycles more than 1 million tons of paper, plastic, and other materials. It also offers recycling opportunities to customers including recycling bins for P.O. Box customers at post offices and a mail-in recycling program for e-waste (small electronics and printer cartridges).
    • Purchasing — The Postal Service has a Green Purchasing Team to bring environmental practices into its supply purchasing and contracting processes.
    • Building standards — The Postal Service’s new “green” lobby design incorporates low impact environmental materials such as linoleum and bamboo.

    The Postal Service has won numerous awards for their green initiatives. In fact, just this month, the Postal Service accepted the California Climate Action Registry’s (CCAR) Climate Action Champion award in recognition for its leadership role in engaging and shaping public response to climate change and for substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Yet there may be opportunities for the Postal Service to promote sustainability beyond these successes. In a commentary in the New York Times, Postal Regulatory Commissioner Ruth Goldway proposed the government provide money to convert the Postal Service’s fleet to electric vehicles. Not only would electric vehicles save gasoline, but they would also be more suited to the start-and-stop driving practiced by the Postal Service. In addition, the Postal Service could help jump start green vehicle technologies. To support this electronic fleet, post offices could be retrofitted with solar panels to generate electric power. Perhaps customers could even recharge their cars when they stopped to buy stamps.

    What do you think of converting the Postal Service’s fleet to electric vehicles? Would it be feasible to implement? Do you have other suggestions for green initiatives the Postal Service could pursue?

    This blog topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Apr 13th, 2009 in Strategy & Public Policy | 12 comments
    The Postal Service spends approximately $13 billion each year with contractors, most of whom are also customers of the Postal Service. Meanwhile, the Postal Service has experienced the most significant mail decline in its history. Mail volume fell by 9.5 billion pieces in fiscal year (FY) 2008. The economic stress of current times is a major factor in this decline, and additional Postal Service revenue is lost when major businesses merge and combine their customer mail base.

    In March 2007, U.S. Postal Service officials developed Supply Management’s 3 Year Strategic Plan. One of the goals of the plan was to develop revenue generating opportunities. The plan mentioned that Supply Management should look further to identify additional opportunities to generate revenue. To meet its goal, Supply Management will focus on revenue generating opportunities that include partnering with Marketing and other business partners to identify revenue generating opportunities, increasing the use of volume rebates, and increasing licensing of its intellectual property (for example, cluster box unit delivery equipment). Royalty payments from various mail automation technology purchased through contracts will also increase revenue. The Postal Service is also considering advertising opportunities in its contracted transportation program.

    The Office of Inspector General has efforts underway to analyze Postal Service efforts to leverage its significant buying power to create revenue generating opportunities. We would like to solicit the knowledge and opinions of Postal Service employees and the mailing community. Our question is: How can the Postal Service best leverage its buying power to generate revenue and what opportunities may it currently be missing to do so?