Postal workers unhappy with changes |

Postal workers unhappy with changes

Greg Risling

Some U.S. Postal Service employees in South Lake Tahoe are calling for a congressional investigation into orders to reduce 10,000 hours from the local work schedule.

The cutbacks are scheduled to take effect April 15, and will involve the reassignment of postal workers.

According to USPS spokesperson Vic Fenimore of the Las Vegas district bureau, no one will be terminated. “There won’t be any layoffs,” Fenimore responded. “There won’t be a cutback in window service and the change will be transparent to customers.”

Postal workers tell a different story. Speaking only on condition of anonymity, employees charge there will be long lines of customers, packages will be delayed and there will be big bonuses for supervisors.

“The announcement by management will only hurt customer service,” said a postal veteran of more than 30 years. “They (management) don’t care. They aren’t working the window. The clerks will be the first people who will be on the firing line.”

Servicing the Sierra

With roughly 60 postal workers and five stations, the postal service is an integral part of the Sierra town. Future plans include building a 4,000-square-foot facility in Meyers and the governmental agency has taken measures to be environmentally sensitive by replacing its antiquated fleet of diesel-powered trucks with vehicles that burn natural gas.

In February, an independent audit was conducted that recommended the major cutback to be implemented over a four-week period. A March 20 memo from Postmaster Alice Ynchausti informed the workforce about the decision.

Fenimore said the cost-effective measure was taken in Tahoe because automation has replaced human hands. More machines that sort mail have been added to local post offices and the savings are directly returned to the public, Fenimore said.

“We aren’t supported by tax dollars,” he said. “By saving money we can keep postage rates down and run more efficiently.”

The 10,000-hour reduction will have a traumatic effect on operations, claim employees. The loss will shift eight to 10 workers to part-time status and some may have to work a graveyard shift in Reno. Current part-timers will be relegated to on-call duty, according to one postal worker.

“The part-time employees aren’t getting any hours right now. They used to average 30 to 35 hours a week,” he said. “They are just sitting by the phone.”

Under the new scenario, he continued, a staff of three window clerks would decrease to two. When clerks are too busy with customers, someone would be called from the back room to assist. Other duties such as putting mail in post office boxes, retrieving packages or tagging letters for timely delivery would be neglected, he claimed.

Another postal worker said the strain is beginning to show. Three employees have been on leave because of stress-related injuries and an overtime list for postal workers hasn’t had an interested party yet.

“We’ve been basically told to live within the guidelines,” he said. “They have shown little to no consideration for the workforce. There is an overriding contempt by management.”

Postmaster under fire

Postal workers are so infuriated by the recent move, they are threatening to file a grievance against Ynchausti through their representative, the American Postal Workers Union. The claim has not been filed.

“The paperwork might not do much in the way of change but it will grab attention,” said one employee.

Ynchausti, who has been the local postmaster for more than a year, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Some are even clamoring for a congressional investigation if policies aren’t reversed. Congress presided over a hearing last year that investigated any correlation between workplace tensions and salary increases for upper-level management (see sidebar).

“An investigation by Congress is the only was to stop this madness,” continued the aforementioned worker. “Our boss wants a big bonus and will do everything she can to get it.”

Former South Lake Tahoe Postmaster Rick Beress knows streamlining schedules is hard for employees to grasp. Beress is the postmaster in Grass Valley, Calif., and is currently undergoing a similar audit. In 1996, the Reno office lost 29,000 hours, according to Beress, and the following year service improved. He said the USPS is reviewing internal practices just like any other company.

“There are situations where the fat needs to be cut out,” he said. “People have said for years, ‘run the postal service like a business’ and that is what we are doing.”

Beress understands the employees’ viewpoint but said his successor will have to ride out a rough storm.

“I can see where the workers have a level of discomfort,” he remarked. “They want to protect themselves the best they can. I just hope they give her a chance.”

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