on Jun 10th, 2013 in Labor | 12 comments

The national agreements between the U.S. Postal Service and two of its unions give the Postal Service greater flexibility to use non-career employees for clerk and mail handler duties. The Postal Service pressed for the new employee categories in its separate labor negotiations with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the National Mail Handlers Union, because it wanted greater workforce flexibility in scheduling and aligning employees with the work available. The Postal Service expects this will allow it to reduce labor costs, which currently make up about 80 percent of total costs.

With the APWU, the Postal Service has already begun to utilize the two new employee categories created under their National Agreement, which include postal support employees and non-traditional full-time employees. The provision on new employee categories in the National Mail Handlers Union’s agreement does not take effect until August, but it will allow for similar type of workers to be used. These workers will start at a lower hourly wage and will have limited benefits.

The number of Postal Service career employees has declined steadily over the past decade. As of early 2013 the Postal Service had just over 500,000 career employees, down from 729,000 in Fiscal Year 2003. Recent buyout offers have spurred a wave of retirements and moved the Postal Service closer to its goal of further reducing its workforce by 150,000 employees by 2015. Unlike previous reduction-in-workforce efforts, the Postal Service now has the flexibility to hire part-time employees. By shifting more work to lower-paid employees with less expensive benefits, the Postal Service is hoping to move the needle on its labor costs.

A recent OIG audit report on the use of part-time employees in processing operations found that the Postal Service is increasing its use of these part-time positions, but it has not hired them to the fullest extent allowed by the contract. It could have saved more than $30 million in labor costs last year if it had hired postal support employees up to contract limits.

Time will tell if the new workforce flexibility significantly reduces labor costs. But our early audit work suggests savings are available. What is your experience with the changes in the types of employees and how they are used? Is mail processed as efficiently, more efficiently, or less efficiently using postal support employees and non-traditional full-time employees? Have there been any unexpected effects (positive or negative) of the changes? Has overtime usage increased or decreased as a result of using part-time and non-traditional full-time employees?


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My experience is that the Postal Service, true to form, has bastardized the wording of the contract to abuse and misuse these new provisions, for their own convenience. Kentuckiana District has already EXCEEDED the Hiring Caps for the usage of PSE clerks, and regularly utilizes these employees in excess of 8 hours in a service day, to the detriment of available ODL (APWU CBA Art. 8.4.g, 8.5.g). Additionally, hiring opportunities for these PSE positions are poorly advertised. As a result, the quality of applicants has been severely limited. There ARE a few gems, but most of what I see coming in are Young people with little experience, no ambition, (frequently related to Postal Employees, especially Supervisor relations) or the “walking dead” – older folk, who can pass the drug test, but are unprepared to meet the physical demands of the position. Without a significant hope for career employment, treated as second class citizens by Management and Co-Workers alike, most of these PSE employees quickly drop down to the lowest tolerable levels of performance, perpetuating the stereotype of worthlessness. I will come back and shae some thoughts on the misapplication of NTFT rules when I have more time.

Here in the Sacramento District, they are over the cap in both F1 and F4. At the P&DC, the senior MDO has two sons and a daughter working as PSE’s as well as having two of them up as 204-b’s. From my perspective, the way the Sacramento District is doing things, it is costing the USPS more than ever before.

Our District hasn’t even started to comply with the contract regarding the use of RCAS to perform clerk work. PSE in our office was let go to allow more work for RCAs. RCAs continue to work on the window in many offices, and are used as hub clerks in many offices. PSE hiring is at the cap, so offices needing PSE help are told no hiring until attrition drops us below the cap. So, rather than moving PSEs to career to allow for more PSEs, more work is shifted to RCAs. Carrer hopes for PSES is just a pipe dream and will result in rapid turnover.

as long as the management ranks stay high nothing will change. the post office is top heavy too many districts, too many areas. too many places for do nothing EAS.

Amen to that...What happened to working your way up the ladder so you could understand first hand what specific jobs really entail??

I worked as a casual for over a year an have been a PSE for almost Two years now. I am a trained window clerk as well as filling duties in many other areas of the post office, including postal one, webats, coars, ect. I do not know what is actually listed for PSE duties but I know from experience that I do all that is required from a regular clerk and more from lead clerk duties to close out. I have also been tossed out to deliver mail as a city clerk. I have worked well over 60 hours in a week some work periods an beginning to realize there is no positive outlook to becoming a carreer employee anytime soon, despite all the union an managements tricks to keep ones hopes up just to keep an employee around to fill the void that has been created across the country. This position is nothing more than a glorified casual, that consumes an confines your life to work and work alone. The meager leave you accumulate and the health care that one can’t really afford on a PSE wage, not to mention the thought of undetermined outcome of when or if one will ever be made regular an able to work tward a retirement leaves little for a positive future with the post office. While I do enjoy my work an service for the public, I am currently in school to change my carreer not that this position leaves alot of time for that, it does lock you down. Just wanted to put a thought in from a PSE point of view.

Yea I agree been casual for 17 years now pse for two all we doing is beig used as long we stay nothing going change we still get treated like crap im about over it

I mentioned some time ago the economic life expectancy of the organization was twelve fiscal quarters. I was wrong. The fact that you have suspended payments to the employee health & welfare and pension obligations has affirmed my prediction.
Your organization has become a ward of the multi-trillion dollar deficit in the United States Treasury.
God save the Queen.

You say that, "These workers will start at a lower hourly wage and will have limited benefits." Is there a clear and predictable career track for these employees? I think that the Postal Service is quality brand and you need to attract quality candidates that will be a credit to the service. In these economic times, perhaps you will find such candidates, but they will likely leave when the economy improves and they find better employment opportunities. I suspect that the workers you find will be lower quality and transient and that's doesn't bode well for the long term.

Wow, just took the interview for a PSE position and when I was told it paid only 14.95 plus it was not even a "career" position I was surprised to say the least. Now that I have done a little more research I can see that the job sucks on top of being low paid.

To anyone applying for a job with the USPS, please note that when applying for a position that starts off with the letters "PSE." in addition to PSE meaning "Postal Support Employee,"and not being a "career" position, it ALSO means that you are hired on a TEMPORARY basis. After a certain period of time your CONTRACT will be done, then you will be given like 5 days until you are assigned to your next tour, BUT,...BUT that is IF they decide to keep you and reassign you.

You are NOT guaranteed work after the initial hire. So if you want a full-time regular position/employment, I would consider the above. There are also websites that you can check out reviews made by former or current employees. The reviews WILL be of great help to you!!! when making the decision as to whether or not you will accept or deny a job offer. IMHO, seeking a FULL-TIME and regular position with a company is much MUCH MUCH MUCH more worth it.

Postal service clerks greet you at the front desk of the post office & are supposed help accept packages & letters, check envelopes for appropriate postage & sell stamps. In the U.S., approx 73,000 folks do this,earning an avg annual salary of $51,560, or $24.84 an hr. In Fort Mojave, Arizona, almost as much as California teachers with masters degrees. They don't smile & do the least required. Local news is leaking after being confronted with providing the minimal amt of service, followed by the comment, "You two are so lazy," they wanted the 62 Y/O offender, a woman, with cancer, to stand outside while waiting to speak to a supervisor...in 108 degree heat. Incensed the woman decided to wait inside for supes...they called the cops to remove her." Govt can do better...