Montana News

Apr 12, 2012 10:57 PM by Marnee Banks (KXLH-Helena)

USPS chief visits Helena; Great Falls workers protest reforms

Montana residents had a chance to tell U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe what they think of the potential closure of several rural post offices.

Donahoe was in Helena on Thursday for what was billed as a community listening session at the Helena Regional Airport.

Donahoe says the United States Postal Service will lose about $14 billion dollars this year, and that mail volume continues to plummet as more and more people opt for online services such as bill payment and email.

Donahoe said, "The fastest shrinking volume of commercial mail that we have is government mail. It's down 22% this year. It's down tens of millions of dollars. Where you guys are stepping up and using us, there are many other agencies across the country that have moved strictly to electronic and cut us out. Then we are standing there with facilities not being able to make the payment because of the volume loss."

Donahoe says the cost of employee's healthcare and retirement benefits are a huge financial commitment and are a big factor in the debt of the Postal Service.

U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) was also on hand during the session, and he said that he would like to see a long term solution and perhaps look at other ways of raising revenue.

Baucus said, "They need to figure out a way to solve this that is fair to most of America. I think it is absolutely wrong for the Postal Service to solve its financial problems of the backs of rural America, or on the backs of closing rural post offices or on the back of closing processing centers in rural state like ours."

Some postal workers in Great Falls are unhappy about USPS reforms being considered in the U.S. Senate and staged a protest to coincide with Donahoe's visit.

Postal worker Kim Clark said that the proposed Senate bill is flawed, saying that it would eliminate Saturday mail delivery, and she believes that such a move would not help the struggling agency.

Clark said that she wants people to familiarize themselves with Senate Bill 1789 to learn more.

Here is an overview of the bill; click here to read the full text at GovTrack.us:

OFFICIAL SUMMARY

The following summary was written by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress, which serves Congress. GovTrack did not write and has no control over these summaries.

11/2/2011--Introduced.

21st Century Postal Service Act of 2011 - Amends provisions of federal law relating to the United States Postal Service (USPS) workforce, services and operations, worker compensation, and other matters. Requires surplus contributions to the USPS Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) in FY2012-FY2014 to be used by USPS to provide postal employees who voluntarily separate from service before October 1, 2014, with voluntary separation incentive payments and for additional retirement service credits. Allows any additional surplus postal contributions to be used for repayment of debts incurred by USPS and for making required payments to retiree health and pension funds. Allows USPS to offer up to one year of additional creditable service for employees in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and up to two years for employees in FERS. Disqualifies any employee who receives such additional creditable service from receiving a voluntary separation incentive payment under this Act. Requires postal retirees and their family members who are eligible for Medicare coverage to enroll in Medicare Parts A and B. Allows a 40-year amortization of USPS pre-funded retiree health benefit payments, beginning in 2012, and a 20% reduction of the net present value of such payments. Authorizes USPS to negotiate jointly with all employee bargaining representatives to establish a Postal Service Health Benefits Program outside of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) program. Requires any arbitration board deciding a contract dispute between USPS and labor organizations to consider all relevant factors, including: (1) the financial condition of USPS, (2) requirements for consideration of comparability of wages and benefits to those offered the the private sector, and (3) established policies of postal law. Sets forth criteria for the closing or consolidation of postal facilities (excluding any post office, station, or branch, or any facility used only for administrative functions). Requires USPS: (1) to develop and update every five years a strategic plan for consolidating area and district offices; (2) to consolidate and relocate such offices based on such plan; (3) to develop service standards for providing postal customers with access to retail services; and (4) not later than September 30, 2015, to convert door delivery points to curbline delivery points, sidewalk delivery points, or centralized delivery points. Prohibits USPS from establishing a general, nationwide 5-day-per-week delivery schedule (i.e., eliminating Saturday service) for the two-year period after the enactment of this Act. Allows USPS to offer nonpostal services that would use existing USPS infrastructure, that are in the public interest, and that would not create unfair competition with the private sector. Workers' Compensation Reform Act of 2011 - Revises federal workers' compensation benefits for current beneficiaries in the worker compensation system and for future enrollees. Imposes restrictions on additional benefits for dependents of disabled employees. Requires: (1) injured USPS employees who are not permanently disabled to participate in developing a comprehensive return to work plan and to undergo vocational rehabilitation, (2) worker compensation beneficiaries to report outside compensation from employment or self-employment, and (3) an independent medical assessment of disability and the potential for return to work after receipt of disability benefits for at least six months. Increases benefits for a severe disfigurement of the face, head, or neck and reimbursements for funeral expenses for an employee who dies due to a work-related injury. Requires USPS to submit to Congress a report on how it will become profitable by FY2015 and achieve long-term financial solvency. Requires the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to publish an annual report on the fiscal stability of the U.S. mailing industry. Provides for the mailing of wine and beer sent by a licensed winery or brewery in accordance with the laws of the state, territory, or district where the addressee or agent takes delivery. Sets forth provisions relating to the contracting of postal services, including the establishment of the position of Advocate for Competition. Requires the PRC to make noncompetitive purchase requests for any noncompetitive award, including the rationale for the award, publicly available on the PRC website. Sets forth procedures for identifying and resolving ethical issues in the contracting process.

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