USPS offers buyouts to 45,000 mail handlers

Friday - 5/25/2012, 7:40pm EDT

John Hegarty, national president, National Postal Mail Handlers Union

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This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. May 29 with more details of the buyout and early retirement offer.

The U.S. Postal will offer buyouts and early retirements to more than 45,000 mail handlers, USPS announced Friday.

Employees opting for the early-out will receive a $15,000 incentive payment — half to be paid in December, and the other half to be paid in December 2013.

The new buyout offers are the result of "in depth discussions" between USPS and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. An agreement was inked Tuesday.

The incentive is available to career NPMHU employees who are eligible for retirement, eligible for early retirement or decide to voluntarily resign from the Postal Service effective Aug. 31, 2012, according to an emailed statement from a USPS spokesman. Also, the incentive for part-time flexible and part-time regular employees will be on pro-rated basis, the spokesman said.

John Hegarty, national president, National Postal Mail Handlers Union

"Early-out VERAs [Voluntary Early Retirement Authority] have been talked about for almost a year now with the Postal Service increasingly wanting to downsize through attrition," said John Hegarty, NPMHU president. "We felt that after discussions with the Postal Service and the upcoming downsizing of the network where many of our mail handlers are employed that this was the time to put it out there and see if it's right for them."

He told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp Tuesday the union was not 100 percent in favor of early retirement and cautioned employees to weigh the pros and cons of the offer.

"We think that people need to be really careful with their financial planning to decide if it's right for them or not," he said. "It is an individual decision."

Employees must sign up for the buyout by July 2 and must leave service by Aug. 31.

Hegarty didn't know how many of his members would take advantage of the buyout, but in 2009, the last time an offer like this was on the table, the union lost 2,300 members.

"I think people have been waiting since last August to see if there was going to be a buyout, and now they're going to have to factor in and say 'Is $15,000 enough? Is this something that will allow me to retire and still maintain a lifestyle?'"

The proposed workforce reductions are part of a broader plan by the Postal Service to downsize both its delivery network and its workforce.

Much of the savings in the Postal Service's plan comes from reducing its workforce by 150,000, largely through buyouts to retirement-eligible employees.

Earlier this month, USPS announced it would offer buyouts to all of its full-time career postmasters — about 21,000 positions. The Postal Service has also pushed ahead with plans to close and consolidate 230 plants over the next two years.

Hegarty acknowledged his union had "differences of opinion" with the postmaster general on how deep the cuts should be.

Initially, USPS will close 48 facilities this coming August and approximately 89 other facilities in January. In addition, it plans to cut another 90 by the end of 2014.

"The Postal Service has already cut over the last seven years 214 facilities," Hegarty said. "They've gone from 675 in 2005 to about 460 right now."

According to Hegarty, the Postal Service should be concentrating its efforts on growing its business rather than cutting service. His union will continue to fight to keep the 180 or so facilities being considered for closure in 2013 and 2014 off the chopping block.

"By cutting service, you're basically giving away the business and taking the word 'service' out of Postal Service," he said.

Federal News Radio Web Writer Michael O'Connell contributed to the writing of this story.

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