PRC Issues Compliance Determination and Keeps Tabs on Postal Suspensions
On Monday, the Postal Regulatory Commission issued its Fiscal Year 2008 Annual Compliance Determination. The Report is required under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PL 109-435) and reviews the Postal Service’s Annual Compliance Report that details financial and service data.
The Report recognized that the Postal Service is operating under economic duress, experiencing a $2.8 billion loss during FY 2008. The PRC acknowledged four factors that played a role in the USPS dire financial position: the $5.6 billion retiree health care pre-funding health payment; a 9.5 billion piece decline in mail volume from the previous year; a 0.5% decline in postal productivity, the first time in 9 years, despite a reduction of 50 million work- hours; and an increase in operating revenue of a paltry 0.2%, despite a May 2008 postage increase of 2.9%. Ironically, at the same time that the USPS has been laboring under serious fiscal threat, service for measured-mail improved.
Besides general data and performance issues, the PRC addressed two concerns that NAPUS raised during last year’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) hearings and, again, as part of our Reply Comments to the USPS Compliance Report. First, NAPUS took exception to comments filed by the PRC’s “Public Representative” that seemed to endorse the privatization of particular postal services, including retail postal operations. The Compliance Determination notes, “NAPUS argued that the Public Representative’s proposal to sell post offices is counter to current public policy and requirements of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. In fact, NAPUS characterizes the proposal as an effort to privatize the Postal Service.”
NAPUS was particularly pleased that the PRC has taken a significant interest in “temporary emergency” Post Office suspensions. For years, NAPUS Post Office Closing and Consolidations Chairman Betty Eickler has found that the USPS has abused the “temporary emergency” post office suspensions process to circumvent the due process protections afforded to local communities when the USPS elects to commence a post office closing. (In response to a PRC request, on September 22, 2008, PMG Potter sent a letter to the Commission that listed 186 suspensions.) Earlier this year, Betty Eickler communicated this concern to the PRC, and in its response, the PRC indicated it would discuss the matter of temporary suspension with the USPS. Moreover, in the Determination Report, the PRC reference that these “temporary” suspensions have “in many cases been pending for many years.” This phenomenon was supposed to have been addressed by the “official” post office suspension procedure, to which the USPS and the postmaster organization agreed nine years ago. Regrettably, too many times, USPS flouts the process. Consequently, the PRC FY 2008 Annual Compliance Determination includes the following:
The Commission expects that those communities impacted by a suspension and/or closing are allowed to voice their opinions and concerns and that the Postal Service will be responsive to those needs. In future Annual Compliance Reports the Commission requests that the Postal Service provide updates on the disposition of any emergency suspensions as well as post office closings …
PO Closings and Consolidations Chair Eickler is monitoring the situation