The focus of a congressional hearing last week was on the U.S. Postal Service’s desire to create its own employee health insurance plan. But Postmaster General Pat Donahoe also had something intriguing to say about the possibility of some kind of employee buyout program. Asked by one lawmaker whether he had any plans or suggestions to “incentivize” retirement for workers who are eligible to leave, Donahoe said this (according to a transcript):
“We do plan on issuing some incentives based on the fact that we make some changes in our operations. As we shrink the network, as we move from six- to five-day delivery, we would put some incentive money to move people along. It’s critical for us to move the headcount down. But at the same time, we’ve got a lot of non-career people on the that are less expensive to work with but they’re also younger people. And if we — if we had to take them off of workforce, they would end up unemployed and I don’t want to do that.”
By asserting that the mail carrier plans to proceed with incentives, Donahoe appeared to go beyond previous statements by USPS officials. At the same time, he seemed to tie incentives to the Postal Service’s getting a green light to eliminate Saturday mail delivery and take other controversial economy moves. Asked later for clarification, USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said “we’re in discussions with our union and management associations on the incentive issue and have nothing to announce at this time.”
And lest anyone need a reminder, congressional resistance to much of the Postal Service’s downsizing agenda remains fierce. In a bipartisan letter to House leaders released yesterday, for example, more than 100 lawmakers voiced opposition to five-day delivery and closing rural post offices.
“We recognize the need for USPS to restructure its business model,” they wrote, “but believe that we must not be rushed into false choices which could accelerate the decline of the Postal Service, with negative impacts both for our constituents and the trillion-dollar private sector mailing industry which depends on the Postal Service.”