Saturday, March 21, 2009

Post office to shed jobs in effort to save $100 million

Administrative, other cuts will hit Tennessee district By Colby Sledge • THE TENNESSEAN • March 21, 2009 The U S Postal Service will cut more than 1,400 jobs and 15 percent of administrative jobs across the country, including its Tennessee offices, as it faces its largest declines in history. The agency also will offer voluntary early retirement to 150,000 employees as part of an effort to save $100 million. The post office saw revenues shrink by $2.8 billion last year and is expecting even greater losses this year, despite an expected rate increase in May. The post office shipped 203 billion pieces of mail last year, 9 billion fewer than the previous year. The drop was the largest in the agency's history. "The credit, insurance and housing industries, they're all heavy mailers," spokeswoman Beth Barnett said. "Because of the economy, that's resulted in a mail volume decline." Six district offices across the country — none in Tennessee — will be shuttered by the end of August. The Tennessee district, which includes offices in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Dalton, Ga., will see 15 percent cuts in administrative positions. More than 1,400 jobs also will be cut in mail processing supervisor and management positions across the country. Barnett did not know the timeline for such cuts. The Tennessee district employs 14,000 people. To qualify for early retirement, employees must have at least 25 years of service or be 50 years old with at least 20 years of service. Unions object The agency also made early retirement offers last year but unions discouraged their members from accepting the offers and they were not widely used. The post office did not say if the new proposal would include financial incentives. The American Postal Workers Union issued a statement Friday saying: "Retirement is a personal matter, and the union defers to the decisions of employees who meet the qualifications." However, the union said it continues to challenge the Postal Service's authority to offer voluntary early retirement without including severance pay. The post office had instituted a nationwide hiring freeze and had cut 50 million work-hours in the past year as part of cost-cutting measures due to declining revenues. Postmaster General John Potter has even asked Congress to consider allowing the agency to cut mail delivery back to five days a week to save money. The post office does not receive a taxpayer subsidy for its operations.

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