USPS Offers Up Postal Reform Plan

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The U.S. Postal Service has submitted to Congress a postal reform plan that aims to protect universal service and revamp the collective bargaining process.


The four-page plan was sent Tuesday to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Government Reform, both of which held hearings on postal reform this week. In the plan, the USPS calls for the maintenance of universal delivery at affordable prices by updating pricing regulations.


The current process of instituting rate change is cumbersome, often taking the majority of two years to implement, whereas postal competitors can adjust rates gradually, the USPS said. The process should be replaced with a pricing system that allows the USPS to operate in accordance with the market.


For types of mail for which the USPS is required to provide universal delivery, the USPS said it should have a simple pricing system that provides incentives for the postal service to perform efficiently. For other types of mail and services, the USPS should have a free hand to adjust prices and introduce new products, the agency said.


"To maintain financial integrity, the postal service will have to be able to function as a thriving business in the marketplace," the plan states.


The USPS' reform plan also calls for a change from the public-sector model of collective bargaining, which features binding arbitration, to a model more like those found in the private sector. If negotiations fail, the plan calls for extensive mediation by a national board.


Failing that, the president would appoint an emergency board to issue a report and impose cooling-off periods, after which employees could strike only if Congress failed to intervene.


But union leaders have told Congress that in no way will they support a reform plan that eliminates binding arbitration in exchange for the right to strike.


"Binding arbitration enables our members to do their job and, when management is not willing to achieve a negotiated settlement, provides letter carriers with a fair way to get a fair contract for their work," Vincent Sombrotto, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in testimony to the House Committee on Government Reform yesterday.


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