Postal Service Offers Buyouts to 45,000 Mail Handlers
The United States Postal Service said late Friday that it was offering buyouts to about 45,000 mail handlers, part of the financially troubled agency’s efforts to cut its staff and reduce its operating costs.
The mail handlers, who work in processing centers, will be offered $15,000 each. The Postal Service has said it will close 48 of the centers starting this summer, reducing the need for staff.
Full-time mail handlers wanting to sign up for the buyouts must do so by July 2 and agree to leave or retire by Aug. 31, according tothe agreement reached between the Postal Service and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. Part-time handlers have until July 16 to make a decision.
The Postal Service said the buyouts were necessary because it needs fewer handlers with the volume of mail declining as Americans have moved to the Internet to communicate and pay bills. In 2000, about 5 percent of Americans paid their bills online. That number is now 60 percent.
“The Postal Service is adjusting the size of its network to adapt to America’s changing mail trends,” said Mark Saunders, a spokesman for the agency.
The buyout offer comes as the Postal Service begins carrying out its plans to reduce its staff of nearly 600,000 to 450,000 and close hundreds of processing centers.
In all, the Postal Service said it would close 229 centers, or about half of the 461 it currently operates. It expects to save about $2.1 billion a year by 2014 as a result.
The service’s latest plan to reduce costs comes as it continues to endure financial losses. In the first two quarters of the 2012 fiscal year, the agency lost more than $6 billion.
A decline in first-class mail and the development of automated equipment have left the mail-processing network larger than needed, and revenue has not kept up with the cost of maintaining the Postal Service’s systems, the agency said.
“The agreement with the Postal Service is intended to provide a financial cushion and added peace of mind for mail handlers who might be prepared to move on to the next chapter of their lives by leaving the Postal Service,” the National Postal Mail Handlers Union wrote on its Web site.
By RON NIXON at NYTimes.com