No habrá entrega de correo el sábado …Postal Service to End Delivery of Letters on Saturdays
WASHINGTON — En nuevos pasos para tratar de salvarse de la ruina financiera, el Servicio Postal de Estados Unidos anunció el miércoles que dejará de entregar correo los sábados, pero seguirá entregando paquetes seis días a la semana.
El servicio espera que el recorte sabatino comience la semana del 5 de agosto y le ahorre unos 2.000 millones de dólares anuales, dijo el director general de correos Patrick R. Donahoe.
«Nuestra condición financiera es grave», dijo Donahue en una conferencia de prensa.
El paso acentúa uno de los puntos fuertes de la agencia: la entrega de paquetes ha aumentado en 14% desde el 2010, dicen funcionarios, al tiempo que la entrega de cartas y otro correo ha declinado con el creciente uso del correo electrónico y otros servicios en internet.
Bajo el nuevo plan, el correo sería entregado a viviendas y negocios solamente de lunes a viernes, pero aún sería entregado a las oficinas postales los sábados. Las oficinas postales que ahora abren los sábados seguirían estando abiertas ese día.
En los últimos años, el Servicio Postal ha estado promoviendo el cambio a un calendario semanal de cinco días para correo y paquetes, que ha sido rechazado reiteradamente por el Congreso. Aunque es una agencia independiente, el servicio no recibe ingresos de impuestos para sus operaciones, pero está sujeto a supervisión del congreso.
Estudios de mercado por el Servicio Postal y otras entidades han indicado que casi 7 de cada 10 estadounidenses respaldan el cambio a un calendario de cinco días como una forma de reducir costos para la agencia.
Postal Service to End Delivery of Letters on Saturdays
WASHINGTON — Saying it needed to take drastic steps to stem billions of dollars in losses, the Postal Service announced on Wednesday that it would seek to stop Saturday delivery of letters, a sweeping change in the way the agency operates that immediately drew criticism from postal unions and some businesses.
The financially struggling agency said the change to a five-day mail delivery schedule would occur in August and would save about $2 billion annually. The Postal Service would continue to deliver packages on a six-day schedule, and post offices would continue to be open on Saturdays.
“Our financial condition is urgent,” said Patrick R. Donahoe, the postmaster general, at a news conference announcing the change. “This is too big of a cost savings for us to ignore.”
Mr. Donahoe said the move to end Saturday delivery was part of a five-year plan to return the agency to profitability. Last year, the Postal Service had a net loss of $15.9 billion. Since 2010, the agency has reduced hours at many small, rural post offices and cut staff, and also announced plans to reduce the number of its mail processing plants.
But post office officials say the cuts and staff reductions are not enough.
The agency has long sought Congressional approval to end mail delivery on Saturdays. But Congress, which continues to work on legislation to overhaul the agency, has resisted. Under a Congressional mandate that has been in place since 1981, the Postal Service is required to deliver mail six days a week. But post office officials argue that since the government is operating under a stopgap budget measure, known as a continuing resolution, that mandate does not apply, giving them the authority to make the changes without Congressional approval.
Representative Blake Farenthold, Republican of Texas and chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Postal Service, called the action a step in the right direction.
But some members of Congress called the Postal Service claim that it had the authority to go to a five-day delivery schedule dubious, setting up a potential showdown between the agency and the Congressional committees that oversee it.
“The passage of the continuing resolution did not suspend that language, as they claim, but in fact extended it,” said Representative José E. Serrano, Democrat of New York and ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which also has jurisdiction over the Postal Service. “Rather than use very dubious legal arguments to end Saturday delivery, the U.S.P.S. should work hand-in-hand with Congress to come up with a successful restructuring and reform package that allows them to become more efficient while maintaining vital services like Saturday delivery.”
Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, who led a bipartisan effort to pass a postal overhaul bill last year, called the post office decision disappointing and said it was the intent of Congress that the agency provide six days of mail delivery.
But he added: “Despite my disappointment, it’s hard to condemn the postmaster general for moving aggressively to do what he believes he can and must do to keep the lights on at the Postal Service, which may be only months away from insolvency.”
Last April, the Senate passed a bill that provided retirement incentives to about 100,000 postal workers, or 18 percent of its employees, and allowed the Postal Service to recoup more than $11 billion it overpaid into an employee pension fund. The Senate bill did not stop Saturday deliveries immediately, but it would have allowed the agency to revisit the issue in two years.
The House took no action on its overhaul bill, and the legislation died in the last Congress. The House bill would have allowed the post office to end Saturday delivery.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, expressed his hope that progress would be made on postal overhaul legislation, but said that he understood the dilemma facing the Postal Service, since «Congress, in its wisdom, has tied their hands every which way in order for them to actually run the post office in a revenue-neutral way.”
The new Congress is set to begin work on new legislation, but it is unclear when the legislation would be taken up as lawmakers work to avert a series of across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take place in March.
Most Americans support ending Saturday mail delivery. A New York Times/CBS News poll last year found that about 7 in 10 Americans say they would favor the change as a way to help the post office deal with billions of dollars in debt. The Obama administration also supports a five-day mail delivery schedule.
But postal unions and some businesses on Wednesday called the move to five-day mail delivery misguided.
“Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe’s plan to end Saturday delivery is a disastrous idea that would have a profoundly negative effect on the Postal Service and on millions of customers,” said Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.” It would be particularly harmful to small businesses, rural communities, the elderly, the disabled and others who depend on Saturday delivery for commerce and communication.”
Many companies said ending Saturday delivery would have a devastating effect on their businesses.
The American Forest and Paper Association, whose members include the paper and packaging industry, said the Postal Service change to a five-day delivery schedule will only deepen the agency’s financial problems.
“The U.S. Postal Service’s decision to eliminate six-day mail delivery is a shortsighted solution with questionable financial savings and will only drive volume out of the system, stripping both the U.S.P.S. and businesses that depend on the mailing industry of potential revenues,” said Donna Harman, president and chief executive of the association.
Drug delivery companies like Medco, based in Franklin Lakes, N.J., have also expressed concerns about eliminating Saturday delivery, saying the change would delay orders for prescription drugs, creating difficulties for patients who need their medications on time.
The move to end Saturday delivery comes as the post office continues to lose money, mainly due to a 2006 law that requires the agency to pay about $5.5 billion a year into a future retiree health benefit fund. Last year, for the first time, the agency defaulted on two payments after it had reached its borrowing limit from the Treasury. The Postal Service continues to suffer losses of $36 million a day and is headed for projected losses of about $21 billion a year by 2016.
The Postal Service also continues to see a decline in mail volume as more people shift to electronic forms of communication like e-mail and online bill paying services. Packaging is one of the few areas where the agency is seeing growth. The post office has seen its packaging delivery business grow 14 percent since 2010, officials said.
The change to delivery schedule is in line with postal operations in several other countries. Canada went to five-day delivery in 1969. Sweden and Australia also deliver the mail five days a week. Post offices in Germany offer Saturday delivery for an additional fee.
Despite Wednesday’s announcement, post office officials said they still needed Congress to act on legislation to give the agency greater flexibility to control cost and generate new revenue.
“We need Congress to make postal reform an urgent priority,” said Mr. Donahoe.