WASHINGTON -The nation's postal unions strongly protested the Postal Service's latest cutback plans, which would close hundreds of distribution centers and lengthen delivery times. The USPS announced its cuts would be open for public comment, but the last line of its statement says it will go ahead with the cuts, anyway.
The cuts, which the agency calculated would save $2.1 billion annually, would shutter just over half of the agency's 487 distribution and processing centers nationwide and cost thousands of workers their jobs.
The cuts would also slow delivery of all types of mail, with first-class letters taking a minimum of two days to get from where they're mailed to their destination, rather than - in some cases - overnight. Periodicals could take up to nine days.
While the USPS must put its cuts out for public notice and comment, it contends the changes will "have minimal impact" on most customers. And the last line of its fact sheet says 90 days after it sent its proposals to the Postal Rate Commission -- which can issue "an advisory opinion" on them -- management can make the cuts anyway, regardless of what the panel or the public thinks. It announced the cuts on Dec. 5.
Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando said slowing the mail and closing the distribution centers would only make things worse for the financially strapped USPS.
"We are very concerned about the proposal to reduce delivery standards. High-quality service is essential to preserving the value of our networks and to any future growth strategy. Degrading standards not only hurts the public and the businesses we serve, it's also counter-productive for the Postal Service because it will drive more people away from using the mail," he said.
"Changes in service need to be part of a coherent business plan that takes advantage of new opportunities, such as delivering the items people increasingly order online. We urge the Postal Regulatory Commission to review the proposal carefully and act to protect the long-term viability of America's Postal Service," he concluded.
Postal Workers President Clifford Guffey demanded Congress step in to stop the plans. But he admitted lawmakers are instead going in the other direction. "The USPS should be modernizing and striving to remain relevant in the digital age, not reducing service to the American people," he said in a prepared statement. "Degrading service is a direct consequence of Postal Service plans to eliminate half of its mail processing centers. Dismantling the Postal Service's processing and distribution network will devastate mail service, damage the economy, and drive customers away."
This article was written by Mark Gruenberg of Press Associates International.