Online Staff Report
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) spent $4.3 million on employees who did nothing in the first half of the year, according to an audit obtained by The Washington Post.
The lack of production was the result of requirements in union agreements that mandate postal employees have a certain amount of guaranteed work hours.
The guaranteed time protects workers from layoffs during periods of low mail volume or equipment failure. The result is “standby time,” when employees spend the day doing nothing.
Auditors visited USPS processing centers in Dallas and Detroit, the two locations with the most standby time.
The Washington Post reported the amount paid for standby time has decreased significantly — by tens of millions of dollars — from the amount spent a couple of years ago.
USPS logged more than 1.2 million hours in standby time in fiscal 2009, which cost more than $30 million. However, the amount declined to $20 million in 2010, and is projected to be less than $10 million in 2011.
According to the report, the decrease in standby time is the result of a reduced workforce. Meantime, auditors also found a large number of USPS officials who did not always properly report standby time, leading to overtime costs.
USPS is expected to lose $7 billion this year and is in negotiations with the National Association of Letter Carriers for a new multi-year deal.