USPS plans for workforce cuts as Senate expected to take up reform bill

Wednesday - 4/18/2012, 10:05am EDT

Tony Vegliante, chief human resources office, USPS

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This week the Senate is expected to take up legislation to reform the Postal Service. The bill (S.1789) could close post offices, end Saturday deliveries and return funds the Postal Service has pre-paid for retiree health benefits.

USPS already has started considering how it would operate with a slimmed-down workforce. Tony Vegliante, chief human capital officer for the Postal Service, said there are three ways it is trying to reduce the number of employees: Attrition, control hiring and voluntary separation incentives.

Tony Vegliante, Postal Service CHCO (photo from USPS website)

Vegliante said the Postal Service has received voluntary early retirement authority (VERA) from the Office of Personnel Management. However, it has not yet started offering any buyouts or early outs, he added.

"We've got to see what's happening with our various operational plans, but I think within the near future we will make a decision," he said in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.

Vegliante said the buyout offers at the Postal Service is different from how other federal agencies offer buyouts. "We don't have the VSIP [Voluntary Separation Incentive Program]. What we have is we collectively bargain," he said, adding "We're on the verge of making that decision."

The Postal Service is also reassigning people, with the next round reassignments affecting about 8,500 employees scheduled for this summer, Vegliante said.

Consideration of buyouts and early outs come amidst contract negotiations with the union. Currently, the Postal Service is in interest arbitration with the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association and in mediation with the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.

"It's been a very slow process," Vegliante said of the contract negotiations.

Pay has been a "sticking point," he said. So too has been the no layoff provision that protects employees after six years of work.

The provision, however, has not been as effective as other strategies in reducing the workforce size.

"When you haven't hired for a long time ... there isn't a lot of people who haven't earned their protection because they've been working for an extended period of time," he said.

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