Changes to Pay, Collective Bargaining Unnecessary; Praises Call for New Technology
Jul 23 2003
WASHINGTON, DC - Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., today criticized the President's Commission on the U.S. Postal Service, saying its recommendations on worker pay and collective bargaining could hurt workers and force more contract disputes into arbitration. The new set of recommendations, which follow last week's report on modernizing the Postal Service, would unnecessarily open up pay standards and collective bargaining procedures that have benefited both the Postal Service and its employees, Carper said. Moreover, if implemented, the recommendations could result in lower pay for workers and an increased number of contract disputes over pay and retirement benefits, Carper noted. Carper said the Postal Service should use the boom in employee retirements expected in the coming years to right size its workforce through attrition and early retirement offers. Similar recommendations are made in Carper's postal reform legislation, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (S. 1285). But the commission's recommendations, specifically those relating to re-examining how postal workers' salaries compare to similar jobs in the private sector, are unnecessary, Carper said. "I am disappointed that the commission has advocated using postal reform as an excuse to roll back the benefits and protections postal employees have fought for over the past three decades," said Carper. "Postal employees should be seen as an asset, not a liability. While labor does make up a significant percentage of the Postal Service's costs, the Postal Service performs labor-intensive work. Reducing employee pay and benefits will not change this." Carper also said setting hard and fast time limits for contract mediations, as recommended by the commission, could push more disputes into arbitration. "The present collective bargaining process has worked quite well for the Postal Service in recent months," Carper said. "Since the Postal Service's financial difficulties worsened, postal unions have agreed to contracts with modest, reasonable pay increases without going into arbitration." Carper also expressed concern with the commission's recommendations dealing with workers' compensation, arguing that the Postal Service should be looking to reduce the number of injuries sustained by its employees instead of reducing the amount of compensation those hurt on the job receive. Meanwhile, Carper praised the commission's recommendations urging the Postal Service to more aggressively pursue automation and other technologies to improve service and increase the security and value of the mail. S. 1285 called for the creation of a new rate system that would allow the Postal Service to use pricing to encourage intelligent, sender-identified mail that would make their processing operations more efficient and their products safer and more valuable. The commission today approved a set of recommendations from its Workforce and Technology Subcommittees. Its final report is due July 31st.