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USPS backs off plan to cut Saturday service

Nearly 70 turned out at Spokane Valley Post Office on March 24 to call on the USPS to Save 6-Day Delivery.

Nearly 70 turned out at Spokane Valley Post Office on March 24 to call on the USPS to Save 6-Day Delivery.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 11, 2013) — The U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday that it will keep Saturday delivery, saying a recent bill passed by Congress prevents it from doing so. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe had previously announced that the USPS would end Saturday mail delivery this August, but maintain package delivery Monday through Saturday.

Although Congress passed an appropriations bill that specifically barred the USPS from going to five-day delivery, until Wednesday’s announcement, the USPS hadn’t backed away from its plans.

National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando said, “It seems to be sinking in with the postmaster general that the law is not on his side in this matter.”

Cutting a day of mail delivery would not save the Postal Service money, but would instead drive more business away to look for more reliable alternatives, sending the agency into a spiral toward insolvency from which it would be extremely hard to recover.

The USPS “should focus its efforts on growing the business first, rather than cutting it to the bone and hope something good happens afterward,” he says.

Since the USPS announcement that Saturday mail delivery would end protests have occurred throughout the nation — including several here in Washington state — to urge against the proposal. Here is video coverage of the most recent rally held in Seattle on Sunday, March 24.

Although the USPS has dropped its plan to end Saturday delivery, it says it would do so if Congress lets it.

“Although disappointed with this Congressional action, the (USPS) will follow the law and … delay implementation of its new delivery schedule until legislation is passed that provides the Postal Service with the authority to implement a financially appropriate and responsible delivery schedule,” the agency said in a statement.

Postal unions have tried to work with USPS management to develop costs savings and growth measures. Just this past November, a USPS report shows that worker productivity has increased while both operational expense and the Postal Service’s deficit have dropped significantly.

The root cause of the agency’s fiscal problems is the unique congressional requirement—the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) — that USPS prefund retirement benefits for decades into the future. Repeal of that requirement would restore financial stability to the USPS. Says Rolando:

Without this requirement to spend billions each year to pre-fund the health benefits of future retirees—something no other government agency or private enterprise must do—the USPS would actually have shown a $100 million profit in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2013.

In related developments, the American Postal Workers Union has denounced plans by the USPS to accelerate the closure of 71 mail processing plants, including one in Pasco, Wash., that were due to remain in operation though 2014. Says APWU President Cliff Guffey:

The Postal Service is on the brink of cutting service in a way that will permanently damage our treasured institution. This would be a tragic mistake, and it is unnecessary….Congress must act now to enact meaningful postal reform—reform that restores the Postal Service to financial stability without destroying service or harming postal workers.

Read more from the APWU.

AFL-CIO Now contributed to this report.

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