USPS to shutter, consolidate more than half of mail-processing centers

Thursday - 2/23/2012, 4:47pm EST

The U.S. Postal Service has recommended cutting its network of mail-processing centers in half, capping a five-month review of its facilities as part of a plan to restore it to financial stability.

USPS officials announced in September they would review 252 processing facilities for potential closure, in addition to 12 previous studies that had already been initiated.

Of the 264 facilities examined, 223 will be consolidated or closed, 35 will remain open "for now," a USPS release states and 6 are on hold pending further review.

All told, the USPS plan projects about 30,000 full-time employees — clerks, mail handlers, managers, administrators and others — will lose their jobs. About 5,000 non-career positions will also be cut from the rolls. "When a plant closes, it does not mean every employee loses their job," a USPS fact sheet stated, noting that the agency has a "proven track record" of helping employees at locations targeted for closure find jobs at other Postal Service locations.

The facility closures were developed as part of a comprehensive USPS plan to cut $20 billion over the next three years in a bid to put the agency on more sound financial footing.

Disagreement about 'right-sizing'

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told Federal News Radio Wednesday the Postal Service needs to "right-size the enterprise," in part by shuttering some mail-sorting centers.

The Postal Service says the drop in first-class mail volume over the past few years has led to excess capacity at many of the centers nationwide. But critics of the closure plan say it could further impair service.

"If USPS becomes inconvenient and slow, many of its most loyal customers — from home delivery medication companies to newspaper publishers — will turn to private mailing options," Maryland Democratic Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin wrote in a letter, signed by 25 of their Senate colleagues. "Once those customers leave, they are most likely not coming back, and the Postal Service's financial woes will continue to spiral."

However a trio of Republicans from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, including its chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), in an emailed statement, praised the closure plan.

"Rightsizing is essential to solving the Postal Service's financial crisis," Issa, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said in the statement. "If USPS leadership actually goes through with a realignment, instead of caving to political pressure again, it will be an acknowledgment that no budget gimmick is going to restore the Postal Service to solvency. Keeping your head in the sand and hoping for a taxpayer bailout is simply irresponsible."

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