on Jul 19th, 2013 in Labor | 41 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?

41 Comments

They have to figure out a way to equally distribute the mail. Work 10 on Monday and then have no mail for the rest of the week. Makes no sense.

I retired 5 years ago. As a Postmaster in a city delivery office I never understood why the Postmaster was not held accountable for quarterly overtime grievances for overtime not distributed fairly. I have seen grievances settled where $20,000.00 was split among city carriers who did not work any overtime. I thought the delivery standard for overnight 2 and 3 day mail was changed. It seems to me if mail is color coded properly at the plants to delivery office and carrier route all mail would not be delivered each day. I talk to offices I use to manage and they all fear delaying first class mail so all mail is sorted for delivery each day hours after carriers leaving time. All offices lost distribution clerks because of the drop in F/C distribution volume. They all tell me at least 3 days a week unworked F/c mail is sent to the offices unworked. I don't understand why offices don't hire Part Time employees to work this volume rather than have a number of carriers leaving hours late 3 days a week.

As a NALC branch president, I have seen mgt abuse the overtime provisions of Art 8 so many times it's unbelievable. Our Step B team even awarded financial compensatory remedies to the non-ODL carriers forced to work. So many times I see mgt send an overtime carrier home in 8 hours, to get his/her 8 hour day, and then mandate a non-ODL to work 10 hours. They would pay the non-ODL carrier $53 for violating prior cease and desist orders, the overtime worked by the non-ODL carrier to the OTDL carrier at the penalty OT rate, and all the steward time to do the grievance and meet. All to make sure their numbers added up into the right columns. They let me know it's because the money they pay out for grievances or steward time don't get held against them whereas if they work a carrier 1 click of penalty OT they're in trouble.

Undoubtedly....with bulk rate mail making up such a huge portion of the product delivered this should be easy to accomplish. Bulk mail needs to be curtailed at the plant on the weekends and gradually added back to keep volumes consistent throughout the week like it used to be at the carrier level. The emphasis needs to be on working fewer plant employees on Sundays where they get a premium. T-1 Saturday night Sunday morning should be a skeleton crew if any.
The current plant emphasis of leaving nothing in the plant if we can get it out leads to much overtime and inefficient delivery by dramatically overloading carriers on Mondays.

Such common sense. You must not work for the USPS

And then mgt is scrambling around trying to fill out the carrier's 8 hour day on Tuesdays because the carrier did 10 hours on Monday.

Exactly. Mgt used curtailing bulk mail as a tool to equitably distribute a carrier's work throughout the week AND in an attempt to minimize overtime costs. Approximately 2 years ago that went out the window. Orders from District now say "every piece, every day". This one dictate has cost the USPS millions because floor supervisors can no longer make the decision to curtail bulk mail. Even if it's dated for a future date.

I would also point out that mgt's refusal to schedule their PSE's to the fullest extent possible, and in other cases their refusal to work their clerk complement more than minimal amounts of overtime, has cost the USPS even more overtime costs. I have literally seen days where mgt could have simply scheduled a PSE clerk to have more than a 4 hour day, or could have scheduled their clerks for 1-2 hours of overtime, thereby making sure the carrier's mail was spread earlier, and since they did not it cost mgt 40-50 hours of "stand by" time for those carriers. Which translates to overtime in most cases. I found out that a nearby office's mgt scheduled a clerk to spread the mail that had arrived the night before to the routes thereby eliminating the need to spread it the next morning, freeing up those clerks for other work. Our office wouldn't do it.

Overtime is a useful tool, especially as the Postal Service works through the transition of closing or consolidating facilities. It allows for flexibilty without having to hire new employees. However, another useful tool might be to use idle workers from one craft to plug a hole in a different craft where workers are temporarily needed. Staffing levels need to be monitored closely and adjusted accordingly. On a number of occasions, I have walked out of my local post office when the line is long and only one clerk is working and driven to the nearby Parcel Plus store, and yes, overpaid for a service there. My time comes at a cost as well, so it was worth the extra $5 to send a package via the competition.

They actually have this provision in the contracts. During exceptionally heavy workload periods for one occupational group, employees in an occupational group experiencing a light workload period may be assigned to work in the same wage level, commensurate with their capabilities, to the heavy workload area for such time as management determines necessary.

The problem is that most offices have been so understaffed in the clerk or carrier craft that when the heavy workload periods occur it's for everyone. There is no corresponding light workload period.

What the post office needs to do is maximize the amount of work that is being done by their flexible, part time workers (CCA's & PSE's) who also just happen to be the cheapest labor the USPS has available.

Audit needs to be done on the effectiveness of employees on overtime. For example, if employees are working 14 hours 6-7 days a week, how much are they really able to do?

I feel that the workers earn every dime. They are hard working experienced employees who know what they are doing.
Lets look at the management salaries and see how we can cut to save money.

Don't. Know why the post office got supervisors who are opening and closing are only getting payed for eight hours..do congress know about this.

The use of OT should be a tool used sparingly, however in my experience over 22 years, it is a weapon. The contract is VIOLATED on a daily basis at my office. They refuse to schedule OTDL carriers when there is a known deficit of carriers and expect NON-OTDL carriers to pick up the slack. The NALC should file a class action against the USPS demanding compensation for this MASSIVE violation. It seems the only thing that will make management honor the contract.

In the last year V-Time at my station is a DAILY occurrence. Carriers are being forced to call in sick to get a day off (what a shock-this cost the USPS unnecessary SL compensation). Get the CCA's hired and EXPECT a sick call in a station with 50 carriers! Staff properly and use OT as it is intended, to augment carriers who exceed their 8 hours due to volume or the unexpected deluge of sick calls.

Wolfe 52 said it right.....the exact same things are going on in my station 23608 each and every day. .and being a carrier of 28 years I find it so sad watching management waste good money and sink this USPS to the ground. ....it's so simple to fix too...just staff all open vacancies with newly hired CCA's...let them come in and start a route and finish it the same way I do......

Mgt has unfortunately tied themselves to their operational windows, which in most cases were simply implemented to give mgt an excuse to mandate non-ODL carriers, so tightly they're afraid to now schedule their cheaper workers (CCA's) to the maximum extent possible. They refuse to understand that not all overtime, or double time (penalty/V-time), is equal. In my office they used to bring in 4 OTDL carriers in at 6am every morning to case up vacant routes or sick call routes and make sure that this stuff was done before carriers left for the street. The work is still there but mgt won't bring in any carriers that early and then they mandate carriers to work overtime later in the day.

I have consistently made the argument that they should be bringing some of the CCA's in early to case as they make between $15.25-$16.25 an hour. They have actually sent OTDL carriers making $41 an hour OT to take away work from a CCA making just over $22 an hour OT. How does this make sense??

The USPS should fire the supervisor and the seven mail handlers should take some of the money back......Its not fair for everyone who works for this company and someone or somewhere is making more money that everyone else....The USPS is struggling why does this seven employee making this overtime pay so stupid management........HELLO>>>>>>

How does that make sense though?? I firmly believe that the supervisors/mgt who allowed them to work so much OT should be held accountable but how do you justify taking money away from workers for work that was actually done?? That's not fair or right. Make sure it doesn't happen again but don't steal from the workers who did the work. To make this amount of overtime these workers had to be working 12 hour days and 60 hour weeks and I wouldn't be surprised if they worked even more than that. That's a lot of time away from their families and time put into their work that they were properly compensated for.

First of all, you need competent managers that can schedule hours properly. I saw total abuse of overtime in my office. A supervisor who didn't care, and a pm who didn't bother coming out of the office and probably wouldn't know any better if he had. Actually had a ptf throwing a rural route's flyers back in the corner cause she didn't want to get sent home and there was nothing to do. This clerk averaged 50-60 hrs every week. Again, management wasn't doing their job.
On the other hand, being forced to work overtime for three years because the office was short-handed got old real fast. I'm glad to be out of that dysfunctional place.

I have found that overtime is the "best tool" when the Postal Service DOESN'T WANT TO HIRE ANY MORE CAREER EMPLOYEES..................... As the above article says, " It has its lowest number of career employees in 25 years ". But all of the route still have to be delivered. Route with carriers out sick, or on vacation STILL have to be delivered with that dwindling workforce. So all that extra work gets piled onto the back of the workers that are left. That's why "The Postal Service’s paid overtime costs have been steadily increasing the past 4 years."......................... Why is it such a mystery???
Even with the overtime, keeping carriers out way past dark in some cases, they are still SAVING MONEY rather than hiring a career employee to pick up the slack. And THAT is the most important of all...................

Give earlyout to letter carriers and hire cca you can get 3 for the price of 1 that why there part timers!

Most likely no one fix for the OT problem. Mail volume fluctuations (thru back door and via front counter), poor managing/scheduling skills, staffing issues.

Mail volume issue: not a total fix but never understood why Post Office box mail must be boxed up by a set AM time. Speaking from a L18 office. Our staffing is 1.5 clerks. Six days a week we need two people staffed due partly due to this requirement. And yet later in the day, we staff with one clerk. The later part of the day is filled with front window work and back office items that could allow for a clerk to box mail. Free up the .5 clerk with covering lunch, off days, instead of eating hours up due to this arbitrary box up time. Change box up time to the time office closes. Period.

Management scheduling issue. Takes a unique person to schedule. Staffing shortages, volume fluctuations, labor requirements make it challenging, but often from my experience is that most management does not want to be bothered. They fight the issue to their own detriment.

Staffing issues? depending on the push down from district and/or higher up. There appears to be too much push to cut your nose off for spite.
Example: I'm in an office that does not keep a PM. Present PM on extended OIC assignment. But history has the office with 17 PM/OIC's in 15 years.
So the office takes its two PTF clerks and works the office with just the two clerks. Week after week BEGGED for assistance from other offices and through POOM. No other office would provide a clerk or PSE with exception of a few days. Just needed approximately 10-12 hours help. This office asked for help for several months during snowbird season (but it was acceptable for the OT) The customers were served, EDDM revenue was pushed, Rev up 14%.

Now? A new OIC comes in the office. PTF's are scheduled less hours understandably but now the office is paying for an EAS +5% to sit around office. We pay more out with extra salary and the work is not getting done. Why? new OIC won't schedule the PTF's to work (insist on cutting hours??) EDDM is drastically down, back office issues not being addressed.
Issues PM/OIC should be addressing not getting done (appears to kick the can down the road as they know they won't be in assignment long)
USPS got more bang for its buck with the two PTF clerks, even with the OT. I have to add, just in case it is assumed, that the two PTF clerks did not want the OT. They were just dedicated older employees that wanted to do a good job.
Not seeing it with the three person staffing presently.

The OT could have easily been removed by the hiring of a PSE temporarily during the snowbird season.

"Mail volume issue: not a total fix but never understood why Post Office box mail must be boxed up by a set AM time."

Our mgt got around this issue. They just don't get it up by the cutoff time and yet still mark it down as it was up in time. Then they send a clerk over to it later on when they feel like it.

Here at the Cincinnati NDC we a SDO/A-MDO that works 40-50 hours of overtime a week. Yes you read it right, WEEK. My coworkers on tour 2 say that when they come she has the lights off in the tour office and that she is in there asleep. If the USPS really wants to save money then we need to start by stopping people like this from STEALING from the USPS.

We have same thing in Fox Valley P&DC on nights. SDO/IPS doing 50 hours of OT a week.

You know what they say, "Do as I say, not as I do"....You go, Mo!!!!!!!!

I have worked as a rural carrier since 1987 and thankfully will be hitting the door for the last time in less than 4 months. The issue with OT (or in the rural carrier's case, extra pay, as we are "salaried") is one that has many causes and could be easily addressed in most cases. For brevity's sake, I will address just two. First example is the idiotic practice of second trips all because a district manager wants to make his numbers look good. A piece or pieces come in after the carrier has left the office to deliver the route. But because these pieces might affect the EXFC score, managers require the carrier to go back out to deliver 1 or 2 letters that in almost all cases will sit in the mailbox until the next day. So if, for example, I have to drive 15 miles round-trip for 1 letter. I'll be paid somewhere around $30-$35 extra. There have even been sub carriers, not working a route, that travelled over 200 miles because a piece of priority mail was misdirected by the processing plant and again, it might make the manager's numbers look bad. In this example the sub made, wages and mileage, around $300. This happens a LOT! The second example is having carriers work their relief, or off, day. This happens due to a lack of relief carriers. Carriers can make 150% of their daily rate of pay for working their relief day if they chose, or make a half-day's pay with a paid day off. This could be alleviated simply by hiring more subs, but the powers that be have brain-washed lower level managers into believing the post office is going to 5 days and they refuse to hire new subs. The figures put out for one year (a few years ago) was something like $155 million for carriers working their off day.

No one has said it better than rural carrier Mike S. The only thing you left out Mike was the money wasted on the "audit" teams traveling around checking to see if the rural carriers came back to get the 2-3 late letters, another big waste of money.

As a city carrier I can say that mgt's "every piece, every day" policy has cost them millions in wages. It used to be that when my route was cased up I left. If a few pieces of mail, and I literally mean a few pieces of mail, were sorted after I had left then it went out the next day. There was no sense in waiting around for .1% of your total mail volume and delaying the rest of your mail deliveries. Almost every financial problem that the USPS has right now, except for pre-funding, is a self inflicted wound.

The Turtle Creek Post Office in Dallas has to be one of the worst! They have sorting problems; some of the mail carriers are told to come in late and then don't leave the station until after 12 noon! Those unfortunate enough won't see their mail until 8 to 10 p.m. Sometimes there's no mail delivery at all. At others, we get bank statements and mail from others; our mail, even mail with delivery confirmation is dropped off at some other house and then lost; items that need to be signed for are left at a strange place. No one takes accountability. All the while everyone at this post office that stays beyond official hours gets paid time and a half including the mail carriers and the manager, assistant manager, etc.
No calls back. Lousy service, but those who work at the post office make out like bandits.

Privatize the postal service and fire the incompetents!

It is impossible to control overtime when management tries to control every second of every day of every worker. our job is not one that can stop and say "I will finish it tomorrow". We do not have any residual time left to take off any different situations that arise. For example if a carrier route is inspected and walked by management, it is always done when there is very little mail and packages to deliver.When the mail gets heavy management then has no choice but to authorize overtime or send somebody to help. Encourage good workers, don't punish them by making there routes longer. Also stop using carriers to cover for management on their days off. Shouldn't management cover each other?

I believe the post office has the oldest carrier workforce in it's history. Just what we old timers need is to kill ourselves working an extra 3 or 4 hours every day.

i love the idea of two open routes every day let's make it three routes next month on my way to 90,000 thank you

Wait till your station has 6 or 7 routes vacant a day for almost 4 months and see how you like it then.....

In our office, they pay overtime to regulars instead of utilizing the CCA's......Regulars make more on straight time than the CCA's do on overtime, but the PO refuses to let them case their hold down routes. hey are intentionally wasting thousands of dollars

In Newport News Virginia we have way too many vacant carrier positions.....T6 slots mostly. ...so the current postmaster hasn't hired enough CCA's to fill these positions. So the regular carriers are being forced to work their off days and carry splits every day and some of those splits are as long as 3 extra hours added to a route already. ...so insane I say but management says there's no mail...sorry but my territory hadn't vanished each day.....just because I don't have mail for a house today doesn't mean that I don't still have to walk across the lawn to the next house. ....HIRE THE CCA'S LIKE YOUR SUPPOSE TOO!.... We have carriers casing 2 and 3 routes a day and forcing all carriers in the station to carry overtime to deliver the routes.....HIRE AND FULLY STAFF THESE STATIONS.......plain and simple! !!!!

The city of Newport News Virginia is grossly under staffed in the carrier craft.....the postmaster won't hire the needed percentage to bring the overtime and penalty down....it's ridiculous watching it and being forced to work longer hours.......Hire the necessary CCA's and save the postal service billions. .....

i work 10 to 11 every day 6 days a week bring it on big boy

I transferred out about 4 years ago after finishing law school. I'm currently employed as an investigator with another agency. When I was in the Postal Service, I served briefly as a steward for the APWU in an P&DC. Management had decided to undertake a new program whereby we would increase production, which is a worthwhile goal.

During our labor-management meeting on the subject, I posited a question: "What happens when a machine breaks down? I am fully aware that the DBCS is capable of processing 40,000 pieces of mail per hour. But simply saying it can be done doesn't mean that it will be. Particularly when you take into account that some of the machines were deployed in 1990." I got a "they don't break down that much" response and my question was basically pushed aside. And this was from a manager who, up until he himself transferred to a larger facility, was regarded well by labor and management alike.

My suggestion? Maybe, since the OIG's mission is to prevent "fraud, waste, and abuse", some of you could talk directly to the people on the floor and ask them what they think would be a way to improve productivity.

i m working in the post office as CCA and we work 7 days a week and 12 hours every day even that still regular make more money then CCA's and second thing when we deliver the amazon on sunday they send us other town to pickup the parcels come back in your town deliver the parcels and then go back and thats what we do mostly three time in a day and if we lucky then twice

even on sunday amazon we work more then 8 hours

i dont know how long i can keep this job because its getting worst

A well thought out production assessment needs to be completed. If management is experienced mail carriers and understand the process completely, it should not be difficult to recognize what the existing problems are and how to fix it.
First, hire enough regular employees and treat CCA with appreciation and respect. The turn over is huge and the amount spent on training a new employee is unnecessary and irresponsible.

Second, schedule employees appropriately. If a route takes 6.5 hours, make sure that employee has enough time for breaks and travel time. Instead of pre-scheduling overtime, observe what CCAs or regulars have less mail to deliver and give them the excess workload.

Third, instead of waiting around for mail to be delivered to the station, carriers should be allowed to start their route on time. The mail that comes in later, should be available for next day casing and delivery.

The problem lies with the system and management styles. Carriers work hard every day and should be appreciated for their contribution to the U.S. Post Office. They should not be penalized for a system malfunction. Fix the underlying problems with the system and you will see an improvement. Find the root of the problem and work on a solution.

I have a question...

As a rural Sub, in previous years after Thanksgiving until Christmas we were paid for actual amount of hours which was always more than the evaluated route time. However in 2013 we were only paid for the evaluated time of the route say for example the route was evaluated at 8.0 hrs that's all you were paid even though it might take 10 to 11 hours on some days.

Was there a change this year or are we being shafted?

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