Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cliff Clavin Weeps

The United States Postal Service has announced that their business model has lost its zip and a large percentage of workers will soon be shipped bulk rate into retirement.

Somewhere in imaginary television Boston, Cliff Clavin weeps.

The pseudo-governmental agency has lifted its head out of the sand long enough to realize that electronic media, email, online bill payment, and other paperless activities are here to stay, leaving the USPS with an outdated and rapidly irrelevant business model.

Going from a $1.4 billion surplus in 2005 to a budget shortfall of $2.8 billion in 2008, one would think there must have been some way this agency was connected to the Bush administration, or at least shared the same accountants. However, it appears that this was entirely within the scope of issues the USPS should have been thinking about but didn't.

Current plans are to offer 150,000 postal employees "early retirement", although it's not known if this includes a payout to get these folks to leave voluntarily. Officials from postal unions are keeping a keen eye on whether there would be severance pay as part of any "retirement" activity.

A 15% management cut is also planned, which seems a bit light, given that the USPS registered roughly 765,000 employees at the end of 2008. If headcount drops to 600,000 or so, that's about a 20% reduction in force, and given that management typically has higher salary and compensation packages, one could surmise that management should share equally in the reductions, and there could be a case made that in order to keep service levels intact, more worker bees and less supervisors might be a better long-term solution.

Several fee increases in the last several years have not been enough to compensate for the plummeting numbers of pieces needing mailed, and the USPS is contemplating moving to a five-day per week delivery schedule, dropping Saturday delivery to cut costs.

Since it's either bills that I'd be willing to wait to receive or bulk rate advertisements that go from my mailbox directly to the recycling bin, changing the number of delivery days seems like a reasonable measure.

I'm assuming here that the local post office will still be open on Saturday, because people have gotten used to standing in long Saturday morning lines to mail packages and buy "forever" stamps from the one person working the counter while twenty other people walk out from the back room, look around, then walk back to whatever they were doing behind that damned partition. I know you're back there! I can see you!

So raise a glass with Cliff Clavin and toast the end of a postal era. Y'know, it's a little known fact....

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