Post Office has thousands of workers paid for … not working

posted at 3:35 pm on September 30, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Last week, Democrats on Capitol Hill pushed forward with a $4 billion bailout of the US Postal Service, which continues to lose money while business declines.  One reason that the Post Office has such a large deficit may be their labor practices.  The Federal Times reported earlier this month that the USPS pays out an average of 45,000 hours per week of “standby time,” where literally postal employees sit around and do nothing:

The U.S. Postal Service, struggling with a massive deficit caused by plummeting mail volume, spends more than a million dollars each week to pay thousands of employees to sit in empty rooms and do nothing.

It’s a practice called “standby time,” and it has existed for years — but postal employees say it was rarely used until this year. Now, postal officials say, the agency is averaging about 45,000 hours of standby time every week — the equivalent of having 1,125 full-time employees sitting idle, at a cost of more than $50 million per year.

Mail volume is down 12.6 percent compared with last year, and many postal supervisors simply don’t have enough work to keep all employees busy. But a thicket of union rules prevents managers from laying off excess employees; a recent agreement with the unions, in fact, temporarily prevents the Postal Service from even reassigning them to other facilities that could use them.

And let’s not forget — ObamaCare will be just like the Post Office!

If nothing reveals the inefficiency of government or government-subsidized operations, this should.  Under the rules, the Post Office cannot shift employees to other facilities; they have to hire new workers in one place while workers sit idle in another.  Small wonder that the USPS finds itself in a multibillion-dollar hole.

How do the employees like it?  They don’t:

“It’s just a small, empty room. … It’s awful,” said one mail processing clerk who has spent four weeks on standby time this summer. “Most of us bring books, word puzzles. Sometimes we just sleep.”

Employees interviewed said they hate the practice, which relegates them to hours of boredom each day. Postal managers don’t like it, either — but they say declining mail volume makes it necessary. …

Employees are often forbidden from doing almost anything while on standby time. In some facilities, the employees aren’t allowed to do anything they couldn’t normally do on the job. That means no books, no playing cards, no watching television.

Maybe the government should have borrowed them for the Cash for Clunkers program, eh?


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