Labor shortage impacting area postal stations, officials confirm


Posted 10/23/12 (Tue)


A sign in the window at the Ray Post Office proclaims the post office is hiring.


By Cecile Krimm

The Postal Service is holding meetings around the region in coming days to talk about limiting hours of operation at area stations, but the window at the Tioga office has already been closed for more than a week.

That reality could be coming to more towns, too, as a shortage of affordable housing and daycare compound the issue that few people in the oil patch  can work for $9.50 an hour — a wage postal officials say they cannot change.
Patrons said the only way they have been able to speak to a postal employee for the better part of two weeks is to open their box and holler into the interior of the office to try to get someone’s attention.

According to Patty Larson, a postal official in Sioux Falls, S.D., “We are definitely aware of this, we are definitely working on it.”

According to Larson, five individuals have recently been hired and trained to work the window in Tioga but all have quit in short order, leaving no regular employees to work the station.

“We do have an individual who is coming in the back every day, sorting the mail, sorting packages and making sure it gets distributed,” Larson said, but no transactions can occur.

Patrons have complained of not receiving their newspaper in both Ray and Tioga, and other mail has not turned up as expected.

Despite that, said Peter Nowacki, a postal spokesman from Minneapolis, “We will continue to provide mail service that is both accurate and reliable.”
That could be a tall order, however.

A national postal pay scale offering workers under $10 per hour, a shortage of affordable housing and a lack of daycare are all issues impacting potential hires, he said.

Meanwhile, few local employers are getting by paying anything less than $13 for an hourly wage, unless it is supplemented by tips.

Open positions continue to be advertised both internally and externally, said Nowacki.

“We have received some interest and are moving forward as appropriate,” he said.

But what’s happening in Tioga could be coming to Ray soon. A worker answering the phone at the Ray station last week said she gave notice to quit this week and didn’t know who would be filling in.

A call to the manager of post office operations in Bismarck yielded no return call, but did provide the information that staff is needed in Bowbells, too.
Postal customers in Noonan were complaining last week of trash in the lobby, as well as missing packages.

“It’s a challenging situation, without a doubt,” said Nowacki, “We’re doing the best we can,” said Larson.


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