Senate to focus on Postal Service's dire straits

Thursday - 9/1/2011, 6:03pm EDT

By Emily Kopp
Reporter
Federal News Radio

The National Association of Postal Supervisors is lobbying senators to support reforms to the Postal Service's retiree health care payment schedule ahead of a Senate hearing Tuesday on ways to rescue the cash-strapped agency.

The union, which has 32,000 members, has sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to apply Postal Service pension overpayments to retiree health care bills.

"Realignment of the Postal Service's retiree health prefunding payments clearly would defuse the postal crisis," said union president Louis Atkins in the letter, which asked senators to support legislation sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). "Most important, this action would eliminate the need for sweeping, alternative proposals recently advanced by the Postal Service."

Atkins cited studies estimating that the pension surplus was between $55 billion and $75 billion.

The Postal Service said last month that it would not have the money to pay a $5.5 billion bill for future employee health care costs due Sept. 30.

The agency faces about $9 billion in losses this year. It seeks Congress' permission to break union contracts in order to lay off 120,000 workers. In addition, it is proposing to end Saturday delivery and close thousands of small post offices.

The union opposes all of those measures.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is scheduled to appear Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Atkins, American Postal Workers Union president Cliff Guffey, and representatives from the Office of Personnel Management, the Government Accountability Office, Hearst Magazines and the National Newspaper Association also will testify.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recently launched a website called SavingThePostalService.com. The home page includes a ticker that counts down the days until the Postal Service defaults on its retiree health care dues.

Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) also has proposed legislation to reform the agency.

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