It’s official: The U.S. Postal Service is dangling more employee buyouts.
The buyouts, available to most mail handlers, will amount to $15,000 total, payable in separate $7,500 installments this December and December 2013, according to a Thursday bulletin on a Postal Service web site. With a few exceptions, all career employees covered by the Postal Service’s national agreement with the National Postal Mail Handlers Union are eligible, the bulletin says. Full-time employees wanting to sign up must do so by July 2, and agree to leave or retire by Aug. 31. Part-time career mail handlers are eligible on a pro-rated basis tied to the number of hours worked in the preceding year. Part-timers have until July 16 to make a decision, but must also be out the door by the end of August.
A USPS spokesman could not be reached for comment Thursday night on how many employees would be eligible in all. Union President John Hegarty was also not available. Last year, the NPMHU reported almost 39,000 regular members, according to a filing with the Labor Department.
The deal with the Postal Service “is intended to provide a financial cushion, and added peace of mind” for mail handlers wanting to move on, the NPMHU said in a separate statement on its web site. At the American Postal Workers Union, which also represents some plant employees, a spokeswoman said earlier Thursday that the Postal Service had so far not extended a formal buyout offer for its members.
Confirmation of the new agreement with the mail handlers union comes a week after USPS executives said they would proceed with the closing or consolidation of 48 mail processing plants this summer as the first step in a historic downsizing that will eventually shrink the plant network by half and eliminate 28,000 jobs. The troubled mail carrier, which lost $6.5 billion in the first six months of fiscal 2012, is eager to cut costs by enticing workers to leave voluntarily. Earlier this month, the Postal Service offered $20,000 buyouts to some 21,000 postmasters under a separate plan to trim operating expenses at 13,000 post offices.
In 2009, the Postal Service had extended $15,000 incentives to employees represented by the NPMHU and the postal workers union in hopes of encouraging some 30,000 to leave. In that case, the payments were split into $10,000 the first year and $5,000 the second. Among workers not eligible for this latest offer are those on probation, along with any who are transferring to another federal agency, according to the Postal Service.
Federal Times had previously reported that buyouts were coming, but USPS officials refused last week to provide confirmation.