USPS Is Planning New Cuts for September—Could Your Mail Be Affected?
The agency is preparing for layoffs amid an existing staffing shortage.
Those of us who rely heavily on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) expect the agency to uphold regular service. We know the minimum: The USPS is required to deliver mail six days a week, apart from certain exceptions—like federal holidays, natural disasters, and other unavoidable circumstances. But that hasn't stopped the agency from falling behind on its duties in the past, and further planned cuts have some concerned that deliveries could once again be delayed. Read on to learn more about the Postal Service's plans, and how your mail could be affected.
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Staffing shortages have been impacting postal services.
Since the COVID pandemic started, a wide swath of industries have experienced a labor shortage—and the USPS is no exception.
Customers across the country have shared similar frustrations with their postal service as a result of the lack of workers. Local news outlets reported that delivery delays have hit multiple states, including Tennessee, Montana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Massachusetts. Some customers reported going weeks or even months without their mail.
The issue has hardly been resolved. Customers in Wainwright, Alaska, recently voiced complaints because their local post office has been closed for nearly a month after the facility's postmaster left their position in mid-May, local NBC-affiliate KTUU reported on June 9.
USPS spokesperson James Boxrud gave a familiar explanation for this ongoing service suspension: staffing struggles.
"We know we have not met service expectations of the community and are working hard to restore the respect of the public," Boxrud told KTUU. "For many months, we have been aggressively seeking employees to stabilize our workforce. These challenges are not unique to our remote locations in Alaska. The advent of the pandemic, the increase of consumer use of ordering necessities online and the national employment challenges have exacerbated this for many communities."
But the USPS is still planning for more cuts in September.
Despite the impacts already being felt from staffing shortages, the Postal Service is reportedly preparing for workforce reductions this fall.
The agency has started issuing layoff notices to some employees, Government Executive reported on June 20. According to the news outlet, the cuts are expected to take effect in September, and are set to affect non-union staff in the logistics division, who are currently serving in a management position.
Information provided from the USPS to the National Association of Postal Supervisors (NAPS) indicated that this will affect operations and industrial engineers, transportation managers, operations support specialists, and network specialists, Government Executive explained.
James Lloyd, a USPS director for labor relations policies and programs, told the outlet that the new Reduction in Force (RIF) action was developed "based on an evaluation of staffing criteria and manager levels."
The agency is hoping to move affected employees to other jobs.
The Postal Service's workforce may not decrease significantly because of these reductions, however. USPS spokesperson Dave Partenheimer tells Best Life that the agency wants to make it "very clear that layoffs are not underway."
Instead, he says that the agency is expecting to keep affected workers on-board in other roles.
"As we have done numerous times with previous organizational changes‚ we will deploy a RIF avoidance process that provides any potentially impacted employees an opportunity to find other positions with the Postal Service," Partenheimer explains. "We do not expect that this organizational change will culminate in any employee being involuntary separated."
The USPS is allowing affected employees to apply for lateral or downgraded positions within the agency, according to Government Executive. These employees will have until Sep. 8 to request new work assignments, as employee separations from the Postal Service will take effect that same day, while reassignments and demotions will be initiated on Sept. 9.
The USPS hasn't indicated whether customers should expect their service to be affected.
The Postal Service's staffing issues have clearly contributed to delivery delays over the last few years—so it's natural to assume any future cuts could have the same effect. For its part, the agency has not said whether or not customers should expect any changes.
Partenheimer declined to answer Best Life's questions about exactly how many positions will be cut this fall, or why the reductions are being made.
The USPS is also being criticized by the NAPS, who said that the agency did not adequately consult with the organization about these cuts. NAPS President Ivan Butts questioned the agency's direction with its workforce reductions—especially since it was still hiring for some of the impacted positions just two weeks before the RIFs were announced.
"I don't know what they are doing," Butts told Government Executive. "I'm not 100 percent sure they know what they are doing."
But Partenheimer says allegations that the Postal Service failed to consult or communicate with NAPS are "totally inaccurate," adding, "We have provided NAPS information on this going back to February. NAPS choose not to participate in discussions with us on this by ignoring our numerous outreach attempts."