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Postal Service to cut workforce, benefits

Aug. 12, 2011 at 12:02 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- The U.S. Postal Service is looking to cut its workforce and change employee benefits in an attempt to cap a financial crisis, officials say.

To meet its goal, the USPS would have to circumvent union contracts that prohibit layoffs by petitioning Congress, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

In a letter to employees, the postal service said it "will be insolvent next month due to significant declines in mail volume and retiree health benefit prefunding costs imposed by Congress."

The USPS needs to let go of 120,000 employees, 20 percent of its workforce, by 2015, in addition to 100,000 expected to leave through regular attrition in coming years. The agency is also looking to drop from the federal health and retirement plans that cover federal employees and create its own benefit program for postal workers.

In a draft of the proposal to be sent to Congress, the postal service says "asking Congress to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements is an extraordinary request by the Postal Service, and we do not make this request lightly. However, exceptional circumstances require exceptional remedies.

"The Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence. . . . If the Postal Service was a private-sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality."

American Postal Workers Union President Cliff Guffey said, "The APWU will vehemently oppose any attempt to destroy the collective-bargaining rights of postal employees or tamper with our recently-negotiated contract -- whether by postal management or members of Congress."

Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers said: "The issues of layoff protection and health benefits are specifically covered by our contract. ... The Congress of the United States does not engage in contract negotiations with unions and we do not believe they are about to do so."

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