Tag Archives: USPS

Postal Workers Get a Raise, Less Benefits

postalA new labor contract has formally been agreed to this week that will give more than 200,000 Postal employees a raise. However, those same employees will see a decrease in benefits as well.

The National Association of Letter Carriers, representing 213,000 city mailmen across the country, ratified an agreement it struck with USPS management, to avoid binding arbitration.  NALC members voted 94 percent to 6 percent to accept the contract.

This agreement takes effect retroactively on May 21, 2016, continuing through to September 20, 2019. All city carriers will receive a 1.2 percent pay raise retroactive to November 26, 2016, and 1.3 percent increase effective November 25, 2017. Those on the second level of the 2-grade pay scale will receive a 2.1 percent raise in 2018.

Employees will also receive a series of seven cost of living adjustments throughout the life of the contract.

The non-career employees represented by NALC will see a boost as well. The substitute carriers will receive payments adding up to a dollar per hour over the course of their first year at the Postal Service. They will also earn more generous wage increase than their career counterparts.

The USPS will also start converting non-career employees for at least 30 months to career positions. Those working as letter carriers for at least six years are now exempt from any potential layoffs during the duration of the contract, which also means their work can’t be outsourced.

There is, however, a setback in this agreement; health care plans. The USPS is lowering its contribution toward employee health care plans by three percent through 2019. Even with this, the USPS will pay a maximum of 76 percent of any given plan, while the top contribution of other agencies caps at 75 percent.

A Postal Service spokeswoman called this agreement a win for all parties. It “addresses important financial and operational considerations of the Postal Service, serves interests of the American public, and is fair to our employees,” she said.

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More Losses for the Postal Service

postal

The third quarter of FY2017 saw a $2.1 billion loss for the Postal Service, including $587 million in “controllable losses”. Higher transportation costs accelerated controllable costs. They don’t include their mandatory payments to pre-fund healthcare expenses for future retirees as a controllable expense, which made up the bulk of its remaining losses.

This is a significant increase over last year. Revenue in this quarter stayed about the same as it did this time last year, at $16.7 billion.

Increased losses came from declining mail volume, which is being replaced with costlier shipping businesses. First class mail revenue fell by nearly 7 percent. The agency must gain $2 in shipping revenue to offset every $1 in lost mail revenue.

Postmaster General Megan Brennan noted that the USPS’ pricing system is “fundamentally unsuited” for the current market because it fails to account for changes in volume/cost. She said, “Our financial situation is serious but solvable. The continuation of aggressive management actions and legislative and regulatory reform will return us to financial stability and enable the Postal Service to maintain the long-term affordability of mail, invest in America’s mailing and shipping industry and best serve the American public.”

The National Association of Letter Carriers noted that USPS would have turned a profit of $1.5 billion if the Postal Regulatory Commission hadn’t forced them to roll back an emergency price hike instituted in 2014. That was only the second time ever, and the first time in 97 years, that the agency decreases the price of stamps.

“Addressing these external financial burdens would allow USPS, which is based in the Constitution and which enjoys broad public and political support, to continue providing Americans and their businesses with the industrial world’s most affordable delivery network,” said NALC President Fredric Ronaldo.

The PRC, an independent panel that oversees USPS, will conclude its 10-year review of the Postal Services rate setting system soon. They will likely give postal management freedom to raise the cost of postage stamps beyond the rate of inflation. A final decision is expected next month. Postmaster General Brennan said, “we’re clearly looking for the PRC to establish a new pricing system for us. From a financial perspective, the Postal Service continues to face strong financial headwinds.”

She also said, “This year, we’re seeing an acceleration in first class volume decline, so this dynamic puts even more financial pressure on the organization, given that our first-class mail pays our bills and defines our network requirements.”

The agency also warned it will likely default on $6.9 billion in future retiree health benefits for the fifth year in a row. According to a Government Accountability Office report, the USPS has more than $120 billion in unfunded liabilities, mainly for retiree health and pension benefits. That same report also said that if Congress expects the Postal Service to pay for the same level of benefits for its retired employees, it ultimately puts American taxpayers at risk of needing to bail out the organization.

“Large unfunded liabilities for postal retiree health and pension benefits—which were $78.9 billion at the end of FY2015—may ultimately place taxpayers, USPS employees, retirees and their beneficiaries, and the USPS itself at risk. If GAO wants these benefits to be maintained at current levels, funding from the U.S. Treasury, and hence the taxpayer, would be needed to continue the benefit levels. Alternatively, unfunded benefits could lead to pressure for reductions in benefits or in pay. Thus, the timely funding of benefits protects USPS employees, retirees, beneficiaries, taxpayers, and the USPS enterprise,” GAO said.

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Bill Passes Aimed at Misuse of Spending

misuseThe Senate unanimously approved a bill that aims at increasing oversight of federal employees’ use of government travel and purchase cards. The Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards Act would task the General Services Administration with looking through the government-wide data it already has so it can identify “patterns of potential misuse”.

Currently, the oversight occurs only at the agency level.

The bill would require agencies to share details they found and other information that might help their counterparts locate similar issues.

Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced the bill and said, “By helping agencies better track and analyze card charges, we can curb wasteful spending and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent more wisely and effectively across the federal government.”

This new bill would “make sure we’re looking for similar patterns of misuse across all federal agencies and that agencies are sharing best practices to prevent misuse and identify potential cost savings,” said Senator Chuck Grassley, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Senator Claire McCaskill also supports the bill and thinks it would bring accountability among feds. “I’m glad to have come together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to crack down on federal employees who are losing government dollars for their own personal gain,” she said.

Recently, auditors have found several instances where feds have misused government cards; Defense Department employees in 2015 were found to use their cards to make more than $1 million in purchases at casinos, USPS workers went gambling and bowling, and Forest Service workers used their cards for personal expenses at gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores.

The Senate unanimously approved a similar bill in a previous Congress but it never advanced in the House.

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Cheaper Insurance for Federal Employees?

insuranceAccording to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, all federal employees may see a better rate on their health insurance premiums under a bill to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service.

A major part of the 2017 Postal Service Reform Act would be the creation of a new health benefits program solely for postal employees and retirees. It would also require all eligible annuitants to enroll in Medicare as their primary health insurance provider.

Federal employees remaining in their current FEHB plans would see their costs fall because removing postal employees (who generally cost more to insure than the rest of the federal workforce) from their pools would decrease the overall expenses associated with their insurance.

CBO did predict the government’s portion of premium costs would decrease by $1.4 billion for federal retirees and $1.9 billion for current employees over 10 years. However, they didn’t estimate the savings FEHB enrollees would receive.

Analysts also predicted premiums in the new system “for postal employees and annuitants would be lower than the FRHB premiums those people would face under current law”. CBO didn’t predict, however, savings for the individual but said USPS would save $2.2 billion for current postal workers and $2.5 billion over 10 years under the postal-specific health care program.

This reform proposal, for the first time in several years of effort, has won the backing of both major political parties and nearly every stakeholder group. Although, one group remains in opposition.

NARFE

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association has said the 76,000 postal retirees who currently use FEHB plans as their primary insurer, rather than Medicare, would face unwanted costs. By their estimation, the premium for Medicare Part B (currently $134 per month) would exceed the savings the retirees would see in their new postal-specific plan.

NARFE President Richard Thissen said, “After finishing long careers with USPS, postal retirees should not be threatened with the loss of their health insurance entirely if they do not buy additional coverage through Medicare. This not only eliminates choice about health insurance for postal retirees living on fixed incomes, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for all federal retirees.”

APWU

The American Postal Workers Union has endorsed the bill. The savings demonstrated “the positive changes that have been made in the legislation.” They noted 80 percent of its retiree members already opt into Medicare and that along with FEHB plans, provide “virtually 100 percent medical coverage with no co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance or catastrophic limits.”

To ease the transition for the remaining retirees onto Medicare, the bill will require USPS to pay 75 percent of Part B premiums in the first year, for those currently not participating, 50 percent in the second year, and 25 percent in the third year.

CBO did acknowledge some postal retirees would incur new costs but said they could be partially offset. “Some postal annuitants would be required to pay new premiums associated with mandatory Medicare enrollment and additional amounts for health care services. However, Postal Service health plans pay a share of the cost of annuitants’ health care services, and CBO estimates that the aggregate additional cost for these annuitants would be offset by those contributions,” CBO wrote.

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New USPS Contract Could Bring Pay and Benefit Changes

payA newly unveiled tentative labor contract puts 200,000 U.S. Postal Service employees in line for a raise, however, they could also see a decrease in health benefits. The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) represents more than 213,000 city mailmen/women reached an agreement with USPS management to avoid binding arbitration.

Pay Increases

NALC members will vote in the coming months on whether to formally ratify the contract. The agreement would begin retroactively to May 21, 2016, and continue through September 20, 2019. All city letter carriers would receive a 1.2 percent pay raise retroactive to November 26, 2016, and a 1.3 percent pay increase effective November 25, 2017. Those on the second level of the 2-grae pay scale would receive a 2.1 percent raise in 2018.

On top of those general wage increases, workers will also receive a series of 7 cost of living adjustments throughout the life of the contract. Non-career employees represented by NALC would see an additional boost and career carrier assistants would receive new step increases. Substitute carriers would receive payments adding up to a dollar per hour over the course of their first year at USPS. They would also receive more generous wage increases than career employees.

Health Benefit Cuts

There are also cuts being proposed too. USPS would cut its contribution towards employees’ health plans by 3 percent through 2019. However, they would still end up paying 76 percent of any given plan. If this agreement is ratified, USPS and NALC would form a Joint Workplace Improvement Process to address more issues.

Fredric Rolando, NALC president said, “I am very happy that our members will have a chance to make the final decision about this contract through the ratification process outlined in our union’s constitution.”

To learn more about this, click below.

New Contract Could Bring Changes to Pay and Benefits for USPS Workers

 

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Worst Cities for Dog Attacks on USPS Workers

dogThe Post Office has released its annual rankings of worst cities for dog attacks on postal workers. According to their press release, 6,755 postal workers were attacked by dogs in 2016, over 200 more than in 2015.

USPS takes steps to prevent dog attacks. For example, the Package Pickup application on usps.com asks customers if there is a dog at their address when they schedule pickups. Information is provided to letter carriers on their delivery scanners, which also sends real-time updates if an unleashed dog is reported in their delivery area.

“The scanners that Postal Service letter carriers use to confirm a customers’ delivery include a feature for carriers to include the presence of a dog at an individual address,” said USPS Safety Director Linda DeCarlo. “This information is particularly helpful for substitute carriers who fill in for regular carriers on their days off.”

Here are the top 10 cities for dog attacks on postal workers for 2016

1. Los Angeles, CA—80

2. Houston, TX—62

3. Cleveland, OH—60

4. San Diego, CA—57

5. Louisville, KY—51

6. Detroit, MI—48

7. Denver, CO—47

8. Chicago, IL—46

9. Indianapolis, IN—44

10. Minneapolis, MN—43

We Help Injured Postal Workers

Dog attacks qualify as a work-related injury, therefore, possibly making you eligible for OWCP workers’ compensation or federal disability retirement.

At Harris Federal, we understand how seeking federal workers’ compensation benefits or federal disability retirement benefits can be daunting if you are not familiar with the process.

Our firm focuses on these cases, which has allowed us to develop the skills, experience, and resources to help workers get the benefits they deserve. We work with federal employees across the country.
To learn more about how we can help you, please contact us today by phone at (877) 226-2723 or by filling out an  INQUIRY FORM.

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Common Injuries for Postal Workers

injuries

Any federal employee can get hurt or develop an illness while working. However, it seems postal workers are more likely to become injured or ill while working than other federal workers. This post will look at some of the most common injuries or illnesses that affect postal workers; dog bites, falls, car accidents, repetitive motion, and mailing hazardous material.

Letter or Postal Carrier

These carriers deliver the mail in any weather; rain, snow, sleet, wind, heat, and extreme cold. Also, their route may require them to walk 10-15 miles per day. Both city and rural letter carriers carry mailbags weighing up to 35 pounds; however, rural carriers drive much more than city carriers. They both must load and unload trays and containers that may weigh up to 70 pounds.

injuriesCar accidents

This is a no brainer. A car accident can happen at any moment on any given day. Postal workers can sustain mild or life-threatening injuries due to one. Of course, this can lead to being out of work for long periods of time and being unable to perform essential job duties. Slick road conditions from rain and ice can play a part as well.

injuriesSlips and Falls

Because letter carriers deliver mail in any type of weather, a slip or fall is extremely common. Walking on sidewalks and up and down stairs that haven’t been cleared of snow makes for very slippery and unsafe conditions. Also, poor maintenance on sidewalks and stairs alike can cause falls and trips, especially if covered up by snow.

Repetitive Motion Injuriesinjuries

Doing the same movement repeatedly, in any job, can cause injuries to that part of the body. This is especially true with mail carriers who “case their route” before heading out and delivering mail. Carrying a heavy mail bag on the same shoulder and walking the same mail route day after day are examples of repetitive motions that can be harmful.

injuriesDog Bites

The USPS says that dog attacks rose 14 percent in 2015 (the most recent data available) up to 6,549. One reason for this increase may be that there was an increase in packages delivered; 4.5 billion in 2015 up from 3.3 billion in 2011. In an effort to keep up with UPS and FedEx, the USPS shifted their service to weekends and evenings when more people are home and able to sign for their orders. This increased the odds of dog attacks.

Most carriers carry “Back Off”—a dog repellant made especially for postal workers, with cayenne pepper extract.

Here is a list of the top cities with the most dog attacks in 2015.

injuriesHazardous Material

While less common, handling packages containing hazardous material can be very dangerous for postal workers. Illness, or even death, can occur. We saw that during the Anthrax attacks in 2001.

Just recently, the USPS was fined over $342 thousand for exposing MD postal workers to bloodborne pathogens. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) responded to employee complaints that they were exposed to blood and other potentially infectious bodily fluids while handling packages. These packages were labeled as containing biological infectious materials.

 

Mail Clerks/Handlers

Repetitive stress from sorting mail is a common injury for these workers. They spend most of their day doing that. Lifting heavy boxes and pushing heavy containers around causes injuries to them as well.

Postal workers have one of the highest probabilities of becoming injured or ill because of their job. They are also the largest agency that we work with. We have helped countless postal workers with their federal disability retirement cases. If you are a postal worker who can no longer perform your job duties, please don’t hesitate to call us at 877-226-2723, or fill out this inquiry form, and find out how we can help you!

To read more about these injuries, click on the link below.

Common Causes of Injuries for Postal Workers

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Agency Spotlight–USPS FLEO’s

In a previous post about the USPS, their law enforcement agencies were briefly described. This post will go into further detail about the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

lawUSPIS

They are the major law enforcement agency of the Postal Service. Their authority is “crimes that may adversely affect or fraudulently use the US mail, postal system or postal employees”. They protect and support the USPS infrastructure, its employees, and customers. Also, they enforce the laws that defend the U.S. mail system from illegal or dangerous use.

Their history dates back to 1772, making them the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the U.S. They were the first federal law enforcement agency to use the title of Special Agent for its officers. However, Congress changed this title to Inspector in 1880.

They enforce over 200 federal laws and have a responsibility to more than 600,000 postal workers and billions of pieces of mail.

USPIS investigations fall into the following categories:

  1. Fraud—This involves crimes that use the mail to commit fraud against consumers, businesses, and government.
  2. External Crime and Violent Crime Teams—This group investigates any theft of the U.S. mail by non-employees. They also investigate robberies of postal employees and facilities and burglaries. Their investigative function focuses on maintaining the sanctity and trust in the U.S. mail.
  3. Prohibited Mailing investigations—These investigations focus on the prohibited mailing of contraband like narcotics, sexually prohibited material, and hazardous material including mail bombs, nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.
  4. Aviation and Homeland Security—Included investigations are securing and protecting the transportation of U.S. mail and any risk that may compromise homeland security. Moreover, they conduct security audits to ensure that the postal service maintains its’ facilities security from theft, robbery, and natural and manmade disasters.
  5. Revenue Investigations—These investigations include cases where business and consumers commit fraudulent practices by mailing items without the proper postage or use counterfeit postage. This team investigates any crime that defrauds the USPS revenue.
  6. International Investigations and Global Security—They ensure that international mail stays secure and any international business decisions remain safe and secure. Additionally, they help maintain investigations in the U.S. and in posts around the world for protection.
  7. Joint Task Force Investigations—These investigators participate in joint task force investigations where laws applicable to the mail service are involved. They can be wide ranging and involve every law enforcement agency of the federal government.

 

lawUSPS OIG

Created in 1996, the Office of the Inspector General assumed the oversight duties from the PIS. Independent of postal management, they are appointed by and report to the Board of Governors of the USPS. Their purpose is to prevent, detect, and report fraud, waste, and promote efficiency in the operations of the USPS. They try to do this by conducting independent audits and investigations. These audits help to narrow down which programs and/or operations are efficient and cost effective.

To learn more about these two categories of Federal Law Enforcement Officers, please click below.

Agency Spotlight–USPS Federal Law Enforcement

If you are a law enforcement officer of the USPS and you can no longer perform your job duties due to an injury, please do not hesitate to call us at Harris Federal Law Firm. Our number is 877-226-2723 or fill out our inquiry form.

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Agency Spotlight-Huge Loss for USPS

lossIt’s no secret that the United States Postal Service has faced years of hardship. FY 2016 was no exception. While the USPS posted an increase in revenue for the year, they reported a loss of $5.6 billion. One possible cause of the huge loss is the decreased price in postage stamps. In April of this year, the postage stamp rate fell from 49 cents to 47 cents. While the USPS saw a revenue of $70.4 billion in 2016, the decrease in postage price creates an estimated loss of $2 billion annually.

Since 2006, Congress has required the USPS to pre-fund retiree health benefits. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del) is a ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He introduced postal reform legislation last year that would eliminate pre-funding.

The USPS reported $610 million in controllable income, down considerably from $1.18 billion in FY2015. Controllable income is the impact of operational expenses such as salaries and benefits. It does not include pre-funding retiree health benefits, which totaled $5.8 billion this year. Without the pre-funding, the USPS would’ve reported a net income of about $200 million.

In July 2016, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed two postal reform bills. These would merge the USPS Health Benefits Program with Medicare. This would remove the weight of pre-funding those benefits.

Read more about what lawmakers had to say about this, here.

 

Agency Spotlight-Huge Monetary Loss for Postal Service in FY 2016

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Elimination of USPS Pre-Funding

pre-fundingUnions are encouraging that the Postal Service pre-funding requirement be eliminated altogether. Initially, in 2006, the Postal Service pre-funded retiree health benefits for 10 years. That limit quickly rose to 40 years. That’s quite a jump. This pre-funding is completely unique to the United States Postal Service. It also accounts for about 90 percent of their reported loss since 2007.

Over the last few years, plans to remove the pre-funding requirement have fallen through. However, there have been fears of a possible taxpayer bailout, and that has driven reform talks once again.

The most recent plan proposal is to have a required enrollment in Medicare. Jessica Clement, the Legislative Director of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association said, “The mandate to enroll in Medicare Parts A, B, and D would allow the liability to be so reduced that it almost doesn’t exist anymore.” Required enrollment in Medicare at age 65 is standard in the private sector and it nearly eliminates the cost of pre-funding by reducing future health care costs. When an employee or retiree has both Medicare and FEHBP, Medicare pays first and becomes the primary.

NALC hasn’t officially endorsed the bill for a couple of reasons.

  • They want to see if they can maximize enrollment in Medicare.
  • Also, they want to see a hardship exemption for those who can’t afford the added cost.

Sauber also went on to say, “You’ve got to put this in context…you’ve got to ask ‘compared to what?’. The US government is one of the largest employers in the country, and really the proper comparison is other large national employers. And if you look at large national employers, a 75 percent contribution to health premiums is standard. In fact, more than 50 percent of Fortune 1000 companies pay 75 percent or more. You really can’t compare the US government and the millions of people it employs to the mom-and-pop shop down at the corner. It’s a different kind of labor market.”

NARFE believes that most federal employees pass up opportunities to change their health plans, even if they’re overpaying for insurance. They believe because of this; automatic enrollment could be the best way to go. “Given the nature of the federal community, given the decisions they’ve made up until this point, we feel that if you automatically enroll them in Medicare, as the House bill does…and allow them a very short window to opt out—hardship or otherwise; maybe they have an HMO that covers their costs, Medicare would just be an additional cost with very little benefit—give them this short time period to opt out, we believe very few would do so.”

Read more about what NALC and NARFE had to say about this below.

Elimination of Postal Service Pre-Funding Requirement Encouraged

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