Friday, July 31, 2009

Rolando Cautions Congress Against Harmful Changes by Postal Service

WASHINGTON - Letter Carriers’ union President Fredric V. Rolando urged Congress today to ensure that structural changes being made in U.S. Postal Service operations due to the nation’s current economic crisis do not cause more harm than good over the long term to its mission of delivering mail to the American people.

Rolando, who assumed the presidency of the 300,000-member National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO) on July 4 following the retirement of past President William H. Young, cited a current study by the Postal Service of reducing mail delivery to five days a week, and also its ongoing postal branch and station optimization program.

“Down-sizing to meet depression-level demand without considering the long-term impacts on the ability of the Postal Service to meet new demands when the economy recovers, would be short-sighted,” Rolando told a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia.

“Short-term savings that undermine the Postal Service’s capacity to offer new services and to take advantage of future growth opportunities such as Vote by Mail, e-commerce deliveries, and other potential uses of our incomparable delivery network would be self-defeating,” Rolando added.

Rolando emphasized the NALC’s long history of working with postal management to improve efficiency and adjust to change, including a new dispute resolution process, health and safety initiatives, and the automatic sequencing of letter mail. He noted that the union and management are currently engaged in a joint process to adjust delivery routes in response to the steep decline in mail volume resulting from the current economic crisis.

Rolando said the Postal Service and Congress must look ahead to new ways of boosting postal revenue, using its unmatched delivery network to expand a whole range of valuable services, including everything from Vote by Mail elections to a recent Congressional proposal to use letter carriers to conduct the next Census.

“That is why we must be careful with branch and station consolidations and reject drastic proposals like the elimination of Saturday delivery,” Rolando added. “The cost of lost opportunities from service cuts and other operational changes must be recognized.”

He said Congress can help in the short term by reforming the way the Postal Service prefunds its future retiree health benefits and noted that the current prefunding provisions are both “unaffordable and unreasonable,” costing the Service billions of dollars annually.

Overhauling the prefunding policy and reforming the OPM’s (Office of Personnel Management) policies with respect to the Postal Service must be a part of this reform if the Postal Service is to continue to provide affordable, universal postal service,” the postal union leader concluded.

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