The U.S. Postal Service has been flirting with the idea of a five- day mail delivery workweek for a long time but could never reach a definitive agreement. But now, with financial difficulties and more red ink in the accounting records than on the face of the letters it processes, the U.S. Postal Service has decided to end Saturday mail deliveries starting in August, 2013. Large packages will still be delivered six days per week, but regular mail will not. The move is expected to save the U.S. Postal Service about $2 billion annually, according to a report issued by Reuters Financial.
Traditional mail has tapered in popularity over the past ten to fifteen years, due in no small part to the preponderance of e-mail and other electronic messaging. Large packages, on the other hand, are still popular and their volume is on the rise; hence the decision to continue six- day delivery for this type of mail. One exception for letter delivery is post office boxes- they will still continue to receive mail six days per week under this proposal.
Post offices would still remain open on Saturday, so customers will still be able to purchase postage and prepare packages for mailing. There just won’t be any delivery of those stamped letters until Monday.
Part of the reason for the delay in elimination of Saturday delivery in the past is the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Postal Service is in a unique situation when it comes to its daily business and operational decisions. It acts as an independent agency, but is still subject to Congressional control. If the U.S. Congress doesn’t approve the change, then it will not take effect.
This time around, however, the U.S. Postal Service and Postmaster General/CEO Patrick Donahoe are convinced they will get the change they seek.
Backing up the decision to end Saturday mail delivery are two important factors. First, the majority of the American people, according to official research, agree that a five- day mail delivery workweek is sufficient and will help the agency save money. Second, there is the obvious fact of financial failure. The U.S. Postal Service reported a $15.9 billion loss last year and a $5.1 billion loss the previous year. No business could ever survive financially with numbers like that. Drastic changes are necessary to return the U.S. Postal Service to solid financial ground.
The problem of fewer letters is partly to blame for the financial troubles, but another financial difficulty of which few are aware is the mounting costs for future retiree health benefits. Congress passed a law in 2006 requiring the U.S. Postal Service to set aside a total of $55 billion over a period of ten years to cover future health care costs. The U.S. Postal Service is the only government agency with such a requirement and it has crippled the service financially.
The Postal Service has already instigated several tough measures to reduce costs, like consolidating its mail processing locations and reducing its workforce. But it is still not sufficient to stop the flow of red ink. Ending Saturday mail delivery is the next step and as long as the U.S. Congress agrees, mail boxes everywhere will empty out starting in August, 2013.
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