Postal union puts forward cost-saving measures

The union president’s appearance came a day after the Postal Service, NALC and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union extended contract negotiations to Dec. 7.

With that in mind, Rolando said Monday that it would be counterproductive to go into too much detail about the healthcare negotiations.

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But both the union president and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, who also spoke at the Press Club on Monday, said the contract discussions had been positive so far.

In their separate appearances, Rolando and Donahoe both appeared to underscore the challenges in overhauling the Postal Service’s operations, offering very different takes on how the agency should meet the issues caused by an increasingly digital world.

USPS announced last week that it had lost $5.1 billion in fiscal 2011, a figure that does not include the $5.5 billion retiree healthcare payment. Congress has now pushed that payment’s deadline back twice in recent months, after USPS said it would be unable to meet the obligation.

In his Press Club appearance, Donahoe said USPS needed the flexibility to act more like a business. And with mail volume declining in recent years, the postmaster general added that Congress had to give the agency the authority to cut enough costs to keep up.

“You know that phrase 'speed kills?' ” Donahoe said. “Well, lack of speed will kill the Postal Service.”

Donahoe also said the competing postal reform bills marching through the House and Senate, while having positive qualities, would not give the Postal Service the sort of flexibility it needed.

“However, taking the best of the House, the Senate and the administration approaches, Congress can provide the Postal Service with the legal framework and business model that it needs,” Donahoe said.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the House Oversight chairman and sponsor of a postal overhaul measure, said Donahoe's comments were off-base.

"It’s incredibly disingenuous for the Postmaster General to argue that a bill that will save a minimum of $10.7 billion a year doesn’t go far enough when he’s not even willing to embrace the cuts it contains or even the smaller savings contained in the Senate bill," Issa said in a statement.

The postmaster general has called for, among other things, the ability to scrap Saturday delivery.

NALC, meanwhile, opposes moving away from six-day delivery and door-to-door delivery.

In his Monday speech, Rolando said USPS needed to find ways to grow to meet the challenges of the new century, “instead of following a self-defeating path of endless downsizing.”

Still, the union president acknowledged that the agency faced a tricky balancing act.

“You have to cut costs and, at the same time, grow the business — not cut to the point where you’re cutting networks out that will allow you to grow the business,” Rolando told The Hill after Monday’s event.