Poorly-managed scheduling caused overtime costs to reach nearly $7.6 million in 2011 and 2012 in just three U.S. Postal Service mail districts. That's a tiny slice of the $6.84 billion total for overtime paid by the Postal Service in those years.
A Postal Service Inspector General audit conducted between July 2012 and July 2013 found that $7,513,674 was spent paying workers in the South Florida, Houston and Chicago postal facilities for "stand-by hours" — or simply time spent doing little work while on the clock.
It happened because Postal Service managers failed to make sure "workforce aligned with the workload," the IG said.
The Houston district had a shortage of "letter carriers," so overtime hours had to be used to make up for those workers missing. Overtime rates ranged from 16 to 22 percent in 2011 and from 21 to 28 percent in 2012 due to an "after 5:15 p.m." agreement between the Postal Service and the local National Association of Letter Carriers, the IG said. Workers staying past 5:15 p.m. were paid $10 per hour.
A similar problem happened in the Des Moines distribution center, but there the cause, according to local officials, was an increase in mail volume caused by Postal Service efficiency measures implemented in 2009. The IG said seven mail handlers were paid between $65,000 and $76,000 each for their overtime workouts — or between 145 and 159 percent of their regular salaries.
The fact the same seven mail carriers were paid higher overtime amounts prior the 2009 changes called into question the claim that the mail increase caused more overtime hours to be paid.
Postal Service officials agreed with the IG's four recommendations, but also claimed the IG's office failed to recognize the Postal Service is in a transition period during the audit.
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