Fedweek

Omaha, NB - Dec 2017: USPS workers Carrie Toledo, left, and Mary Lichtenwalt sort for oversize articles on a conveyor belt at the main post office in Omaha experiencing a high volume of holiday mail.

Overall employment at the Postal Service has leveled off in recent years after dropping substantially from 2009 to 2012 but within that change there has been a major shift in the makeup of the workforce, an IG report has said.

It said that as of fiscal 2018, total postal employment stood at 634,000, about the same as the 629,000 reached in 2012 after falling from 712,000 in 2009. But of the current total, 137,000 are non-career employees compared with 101,000 in 2012 and just 89,000 in 2009.

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The IG said that labor costs, which account for three-fourths of USPS expenses, fell in inflation-adjusted terms by 14 percent during the 10-year period—during which volume fell by 17 percent. It attributed much of the decrease in labor costs to the shift toward non-career employees such as postal support employees, mail handler assistants, city carrier assistants, and assistant rural carriers. They are paid on average about half as much as career employees and whose benefits are inferior, as well.

At the same time, it said, “clerk and mail handler overtime increased by almost 100 percent. This raises questions as to whether non-career employees are being used in the most efficient manner possible.” It said that possible reasons include growth in parcel delivery volume, consolidations of carrier routes and turnover of non-career employees. Also, even as volume decreased the number of both city and rural delivery points increased by 4 and 5 percent, it said.

The report added that the number of grievances “has consistently trended upwards, increasing on average about 6 percent annually”—up 16 percent in 2018 to above 180,000 for a ten-year total of 1.5 million with a total payout of $1 billion.