Postal Service ‘solutions’ set to fail
When a business fails in the private sector, it files for bankruptcy and reorganizes or dissolves altogether.
If that same failing business is part of the government, however, it is allowed to continue to run inefficiently indefinitely.
Postmaster General John E. Potter on Tuesday announced a 10-year plan designed to help the struggling government agency cope with a projected $238 billion shortfall over the next decade.
“The crisis we’re facing gives us an historic opportunity to make changes that will lay the foundation for a leaner, more market responsive Postal Service that can thrive far into the future,” Potter said in a USPS press release.
Among the ideas in the plan Potter presented was the elimination of Saturday home delivery.
Ironically, the postmaster general’s plan to help return the organization to financial solvency involves doing less work.
The problem with this is that USPS employees are salaried professionals, not hourly, meaning they would be paid the same amount to perform a less labor-intensive job.
Perhaps Potter’s next move could be to introduce Jeff Skilling as the new chief financial officer.
To be fair, the release also stated that the USPS would “restructure retiree health benefits payments to be consistent with what is used by the rest of the federal government and the majority of the private sector.”
While benefits are a large part of the problem, they aren’t all of it.
According to the American Postal Workers Union, the average annual postal worker’s salary from 2006-10 was $52,747. Since 1969, each time the APWU has renegotiated workers’ salaries with the USPS, they have increased at least 6 percent.
Not too shabby, especially when compared to the $47,077 the average public school teacher made in 2009, according to the American Federation of Teachers.
As far as benefits are concerned, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management lists the minimum age at which a postal worker can retire with benefits at between 55 and 57, depending on the year in which the employee was born.
The current collective bargaining agreement between the USPS and the APWU also provides all postal workers with quality health insurance, at least 84 percent of which (depending on the plan) is covered by taxpayer funds.
The problem has nothing to do with the number of days on which mail is delivered, but rather with the compensation government employees are receiving for menial work.
As presently constituted, the economic structure of the USPS is not a sustainable business model. If the Postal Service were a private company and not a government entity, it would have failed years ago.
The APWU’s collective bargaining agreement is up at the end of 2010. Potter needs to demand cuts from employee salaries if he’s truly interested in turning the USPS around.
But he probably isn’t, and it’s doubtful that much will change. And that’s OK, because most people are content to fly like eagles on over to FedEx for their postal needs.
Alan Dennis is a communication senior and may be reached at [email protected]