POStPlan postponed: 3,200 postmasters get a reprieve

May 22, 2014

The Postal Service has announced that the timeline for implementing POStPlan is going to be extended.  Initially, all 13,000 post offices included in the plan were to have their hours reduced by the end of September 2014, and any full-time postmasters still working at those offices would have lost their full-time jobs on October 1 as part of a Reduction in Force (RIF).

According to a notice posted on the websites of NAPUS and the League of Postmasters, there are approximately 3,200 postmasters facing a RIF.  Now these postmasters are getting a reprieve — at least for a few months.  The new effective RIF date for impacted postmasters is now January 10, 2015.

It's not clear why the Postal Service is extending the RIF date.  Maybe headquarters wants to give postmasters more time to find new positions, maybe it has to do with the APWU's pending grievance regarding who should staff impacted offices (PRMs or PSEs), or maybe there are other obstacles to completing the implementation. 

The notice from NAPUS and the League does not state explicitly that these 3,200 post offices will remain at their full hours until January, but that’s certainly the implication.  It would make no sense to reduce the hours in October, but continue paying postmasters their full-time salaries until January.

No official list of these post offices has been released, but we’ve put together a list of 3,650 post offices where no public meeting has been held or scheduled as of June 12.  The list is here; a map is here.  (For more about POStPlan implementation, see this previous post.)

Presumably about 450 of these post offices currently have a postmaster vacancy, and they will see their hours reduced over the summer and early fall.  At the other 3,200, there’s still a full-time postmaster.

Our list includes the new POStPlan levels that were set back in 2012, but these may not turn out to be the new hours after all.  All of these post offices will be evaluated using data from Fiscal Year 2013 to determine the new level and hours.

At offices converting to six hours a day, postmasters still on the job in January 2015 will be demoted by RIF, but they can stay on, albeit at a significantly reduced salary ($12.30 to $18.18).  The offices going to two or four hours a day will be staffed by a postmaster relief, so those postmasters won’t be able to remain in their positions.  

By extending the implementation deadline by over three months, the Postal Service will be giving postmasters some extra time to look for a new full-time position, if that’s what they want.  Some may be ready to retire, and there have apparently been discussions about another Voluntary Early Retirement offer (VER), presumably something like the one postmasters were offered back in 2011.  The League and NAPUS notice simply says, “This is still on the table and an important part of future meetings.”

It’s unclear how many positions are available to provide a “soft landing” for these 3,200 postmasters, but it’s apparently the hope of the Postal Service and postmaster organizations that anyone who wants a new position will be able to find one.  Of course, that may require a willingness to commute or relocate or take an undesirable position.  As the notice says, “Postmasters need to help themselves to become good candidates for available positions and be flexible about new opportunities.”

(Photo credit: Post office in Bangall, NY by J. Gallagher of the PMCC.  The Bengall Post Office is one of those on the list of 3,200.  In March 2014, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that it was being nominated to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.)

POStPlan implementation: 9,000 post offices downgraded, 4,000 to go, RIF's coming

March 23, 2014

The Postal Service is continuing to implement POStPlan, its initiative to reduce hours at 13,000 post offices and replace their postmasters with part-time workers.  At this point, POStPlan has been implemented, or will be implemented soon, at almost 9,000 post offices.  Hours at the remaining 4,000 will be reduced over the coming months.  By October, the institution of the small-town career postmaster will become a thing of the past at almost half the country's post offices.

As best as we can figure it using USPS lists, about 8,800 post offices have had their hours reduced over the past year and a half (including those where implementation is scheduled over the next few weeks).  For another 300 offices, a public meeting was held recently or it's scheduled soon, but no implementation date has been announced.  

That leaves around 3,900 post offices where no meeting has yet been scheduled and implementation has yet to occur.   At many of these offices, there's currently a postmaster vacancy; at others, a vacancy will open up over the coming months if the postmaster can find a new position.  If implementation continues at the current rate (about a hundred a month), some 600 of these post offices will have their hours reduced during the spring and summer.  

In the end, there will be something like 3,300 post offices where the postmaster will still be on the job as of September 30, 2014.  On that date, these postmasters will lose their full-time jobs as part of a Reduction in Force — i.e., they will be RIF’d.

Using some lists that the Postal Service has made available, we've put together the following lists of POStPlan post offices:

  • List and map of approximately 8,850 post offices where implementation has already occurred or been scheduled;
  • List and map of 290 meetings scheduled for February - April, 2014;
  • List and map of 3,920 offices where POStPlan has yet to be implemented or a meeting scheduled.

Note that these lists are based on USPS reports, but some errors inevitably occurred while processing the data.  The official lists of meetings are here; the implementation reports are here.

We're listening: The Postal Service holds 8,500 POStPlan meetings, but why?

October 24, 2013

Yesterday the Postal Service gave the Postal Regulatory Commission a copy of the Household Diary Study, the annual report on mail use and attitudes.  The study says this about how people are using their post office:

"In spite of a declining frequency of visits over the past five years, the use of post offices for mailing services continues to dominate the mail service industry.  Sixty percent of all U.S. households patronize a post office at least once a month, while just 11 percent visit a private mailing company.  Over 28 percent of all households in the U.S. visit the post office three or more times a month.  Even with the continued availability of mailrelated products and services through alternative modes (such as Internet orders), in-person visits to postal facilities remain strong."

One might think that with so many people patronizing their post office, the Postal Service would be more interested in preserving its legacy of brick-and-mortar post offices.  Instead, we have POStPlan, the initiative to eliminate postmasters and reduce hours at 13,000 small post offices.

The implementation of POStPlan is past halfway.  The Postal Service provides bi-monthly lists of where POStPlan has been implemented; the source page is here, the merged list is here, and an article about the implementation, here.  The Postal Service website also has a page where all the POStPlan meetings are listed on a week-by-week basis, which you can find here.  We’ve merged all the lists into one big list on Google docs, here, along with a map

The list of meetings indicates that as of today, the Postal Service has held over 8,400 meetings to talk over POStPlan options with each community; another hundred or so are scheduled for the coming weeks.

Of the total of around 8500 meetings, about 4,500 took place in a town hall, church, or similar location; the other 4,000 took place in the post office itself.  Most of the POStPlan offices are small, so in many cases the folks at the meeting had to stand in a crowded little lobby area.

The meetings have been scheduled in the afternoon and evening; very few were in the morning.  About 3,400 began sometime between noon and 4 p.m.; 3,000, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and 2,000, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.  That means that in three out of four towns, people who work during the day were unable to attend.

There have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of news reports about these meetings.  They tell the same story.  The Postal Service representative, usually the postmaster in the APO (administrative post office) or someone from the district headquarters, explains how falling mail volumes and revenues have made it necessary to look for cost-cutting moves. 

The small group gathered in the post office lobby or a town hall is told that they have four options.  Three involve closing the post office — have the mail delivered to your house, use another post office, or find a local business that wants to sell stamps and perhaps other postal products.  The fourth is to keep the post office open at reduced hours.  Naturally, in virtually every case, the community has chosen reduced hours.  The news reports often cheer this result, with headlines like “post office saved” and “post office not closing.”

That outcome was easy to predict, but the Postal Service nonetheless went through the process of sending out questionnaires and holding meetings in thousands and thousands of small towns across the country.  The goal was obviously not to give people an opportunity to decide something.  Reducing the hours was the only viable alternative.

One has to wonder, then, why the Postal Service has invested so much time and expense in holding all these meetings.  They weren't required by any laws or regulations.  Why bother when the outcome was a foregone conclusion?

POStPlan implementation 60 percent done: Hours reduced at over 8,000 post offices

October 2, 2013

The Postal Service is well along in its implementation of POStPlan, the initiative to cut hours at 13,000 post offices and replace their postmasters with part-time workers.  Since beginning the process a year ago, the Postal Service has reduced hours at about 8,300 post offices.  Another couple of hundred will be reduced over the coming weeks.

In the request for an exigent rate increase submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission last week, the Postal Service reviewed some of the steps it has taken to cut costs over the past few years, including POStPlan. The request indicates that in the first nine months of 2013, the Postal Service had implemented POStPlan at 7,397 post offices.

There were about 600 or 700 post offices where implementation took place in the fall of 2012.  Another 166 implementations are scheduled for this month.  In addition, 193 post offices had meetings scheduled for September and October, and they will have their hours reduced later this year.  That adds up to about 8,400 post offices.

Since the beginning of 2013, the Postal Service has published bimonthly lists of of the post offices where POStPlan has been implemented.  A list merging all those lists is here, and a map is here.  The list includes the implementations from 2012 as well.  A separate list of the meetings scheduled for September and October is here (lists of all the meetings are here).

The Postal Service has implemented POStPlan only at offices where there was a postmaster vacancy.  At offices where the postmaster has chosen to stay on, POStPlan will not be implemented until September 30, 2014.

The 8,400 postmaster vacancies where POStPlan has been implemented breaks down to something like this: About 2,200 offices had a postmaster vacancy when POStPlan was announced in May 2012.  About 4,000 postmasters took the retirement incentive last summer, of which maybe 2,200 were at POStPlan offices (a rough guess).  Something like 1,600 POStPlan postmasters transferred to a new position in early fall 2012, another couple of thousand transferred to a position that opened up thanks to the retirements, and a few hundred more have found new positions in recent months.

At this point, POStPlan implementation is over 60 percent complete.  This state-by-state breakdown shows that implementation has been fairly uniform across the country.  In a few states (Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire), the implementation rate is a bit higher, but this is probably just a function of where the postmaster vacancies are occurring.

The rate of implementation has slowed down over the course of the year.  As this table shows, during the first quarter of 2013, some 4,600 offices had their hours reduced; during the second quarter, 2,200; and during the third, about 600.  The decreasing rate of implementation reflects the fact that there aren’t many offices developing new postmaster vacancies. 

Implementation will probably proceed at a pace of about a hundred a month or less for much of 2014.  By September 2014, when all of the remaining POStPlan offices will have their hours reduced and all remaining postmasters will be removed from their positions by RIF (Reduction in Force), there will probably be about 4,000 postmasters still in their jobs. 

A few of them may be ready to retire anyway — they just passed up the 2012 incentive offer because they wanted to work another two years.  But for most of them, September 30, 2014, will be a very unhappy day. 

At least in the other POStPlan post offices, the postmaster retired voluntarily or transferred to another post office. For the last 4,000 POStPlan postmasters, there will be nothing very voluntary about how they depart from the Postal Service.

(Photo credit: Post office in Blue Mountain Lake, New York, which is having its POStPlan meeting today.)

Previous posts about POStPlan implementation:

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On Privatization

Good Reading on Postal Privatization

Also: Sarah Ryan's "Understanding Postal Privatization: Corporations, Unions, and the "Public Interest"

save your p.o.

Organizing to Save Rural Post Offices

A Community Organizing Toolkit

Revised November 2012

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