One of the top US lawmakers behind proposals to reform the US Postal Service has attacked Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe over his “disastrously flawed” plans for major cutbacks in the US postal network.
Susan Collins, the leading Republican in the US Senate regarding ongoing efforts to pass postal reform legislation, targeted Donahoe personally yesterday in comments she made on the Senate floor.
Collins has long argued for reforms to USPS healthcare and pension arrangements, as well as its business model, to help correct its multi-billion dollar annual losses.
But the Senator representing the largely rural US State of Maine has never been on board with calls to reduce mail services to cut costs, including wishes by USPS executives to abandon Saturday deliveries.
She has also demanded that USPS reforms avoid making mailers pay significantly more for services, and while supporting the need to reduce excess capacity from the mail network, has cautioned against cutbacks that would impact on mail services or access to post offices in rural areas.
Yesterday Collins said she and Donahoe “fundamentally disagree” on how to rescue USPS, and hit out at the Postmaster General for pushing forward with plans to downgrade First Class Mail service standards while Congress has been working for “many months” on reforms that could potentially avoid such action, and before regulators have been able to review the plans.
In her prepared remarks, the Senator said of Donahoe: “He continues to make decisions that will severely degrade service and drive away customers and that undermine the opportunity for our legislation to succeed. It is clear we have two very diferent visions on how best to help the Postal Service.”
Collins accepted that Donahoe was aiming to set USPS on a sustainable path, and in her speech did accept it was “critical” to downsize the labour force and remove excess processing capacity.
However, she said doing so had to be achieved in a way that “preserves service and does not inflict avoidable harm on these dedicated workers”.
Yet Collins said the current USPS plans did not do this, stating: “I fear Postmaster General Donahoe’s approach would shrink the Postal Service to a level that will ultimately hasten its insolvency.”
The Senator suggested to the Senate that even if 10-20% of USPS customers shifted to alternative delivery channels in the face of downgraded services, “the Postal Service would face an irreversible catastrophe” as she said every 5% drop in First Class Mail volume leads to a $1.6bn drop in USPS revenue.
Collins’ recommendations were to reduce the size of mail plants without closing them, co-locating small post offices with local grocery stores and freeing up USPS to provide extra services such as delivering alcoholic beverages, something that is currently banned.
“The Postal Service will not be saved by a bare-bones approach that will require massive adjustments by its customers,” she said. “Perhaps that might have made sense in a time when customers had no other options.
“Today, the massive shift to online publications and commerce provides many with alternatives to using the mail.”
Collins said the Senate Bill on which she is co-sponsor, the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S.1789) was set to be debated by the full Senate “imminently”, but warned that the current USPS actions “would have already done damage to its customer base” by the time the law could be implemented.
A spokesperson for the Postal Service said today it did not wish to comment on the Senator’s views.