The U.S. Postal Service is moving forward with plans to move all mail processing operations from the Long Beach Processing & Distribution Center (P&DC) on Redondo Avenue to the Los Angeles P&DC.
Announced Thursday morning, the change is part of the U.S. Postal Service’s plans to close or consolidate operations at more than 200 mail processing facilities nationwide to reduce costs by $20 billion by 2015.
No official date to cease mail processing at the Redondo facility has been set, and Postal Service officials said there is a moratorium on closing or consolidating post office and mail processing facilities prior to May 15, 2012 — the deadline for Congress to enact comprehensive postal legislation as an alternative. Services at the Redondo Avenue P&DC will remain the same until May 15.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman Richard Maher explained that the U.S. Postal Service is required by a Congressional mandate to prepay $5.5 billion a year into future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and do so within a decade — something no other public agency or private company has to do.
“First-class mail volume has dropped 25% since 2006, and on top of that we pay $5.5 billion into future retiree health benefits,” he said. “And then of course the recession hit a couple of years ago, too, and mail is a barometer of the economy. When the economy is suffering, people use the mail less.”
The U.S. Postal Service is asking Congress to review the law requiring the $5.5 billion annual payments to prefund retirement health benefits as well as other options, including eliminating Saturday mail service, Maher said.
Before a decision is made in May however, the Postal Service is moving forward with the steps necessary to close or consolidate operations and facilities such as the Redondo Avenue P&DC.
“We have agreed with Congress not to make any decisions or set any dates until they have an opportunity to come up with an alternative plan,” Maher said. “But this is coming about because the Postal Service is in a financial crisis, and we have been losing millions of dollars every year. Because of the urgent financial situation, we are going forward with all that is necessary to plan this (closures and consolidations). We have to be ready to make moves to cut costs.”
Already, Long Beach has been on the Postal Service’s cutting block. The Redondo P&DC was consolidated in 2009, when outgoing mail operations were moved to a facility in Santa Ana.
Here in Long Beach, the U.S. Postal Service hopes to avoid layoffs by transferring employees to other facilities or reassigning them to other positions. However, Maher said some layoffs might be unavoidable.
“Nationwide, we are looking at a reduction of 35,000 jobs, and we don’t know that we will be able to reassign everyone,” Maher said. “So we are working with unions and management associations to consider encouraging employees to retire. Currently, 54% of our mail processing employees are eligible to retire.”
Unrelated to the potential elimination of services at Redondo Avenue, but still a part of the U.S. Postal Service’s efforts to cut costs this year, Maher said a decision would be made next month about changing delivery methods for first-class mail.
“There may be a change in first-class mail standards,” he said. “Letters currently delivered in one to three days would now take two to three days. So there would be no more next-day delivery of first-class mail. We are hoping to have a decision my mid-April.”
Maher said changes at the U.S. Postal Service are necessary to maintaining the mail service in the future.
“There is a future for the Postal Service, but we need to adapt,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to cut costs.”
A list of mail processing facilities targeted for closure or consolidation is available at usps.com/ourfuturenetwork. Specific information about individual studies, public meetings and summary briefs about those sites will be posted at usps.com/areamailprocessing as the information is available.