Reporting from Washington — The discussed demise of Saturday mail delivery would become a reality early next year under a cost-cutting U.S. Postal Service plan unveiled Monday that would also slash thousands of front-line jobs.
"Given the fact that we're facing such a huge deficit, we'd like to move as quickly as possible," Postmaster General John E. Potter told a news conference.
Faced with a projected $238-billion deficit over the next decade, the Postal Service board of governors approved the cuts last week and ordered Potter to submit the proposal to the Postal Regulatory Commission on Tuesday.
In addition to cutting one day a week from the delivery schedule, the proposal would eliminate the equivalent of 40,000 full- and part-time jobs, about 8% of the current workforce of 600,000. Officials said the changes would save the Postal Service a projected $3.3 billion in the first year and about $5.1 billion annually by 2020.
Express mail and remittance mail services would still run seven days a week.
If approved by Congress and the regulatory commission, officials said they hoped to implement the plan by the first half of 2011.
Potter said the Postal Service would eliminate about 26,000 positions through attrition and lay off 13,000 part-time workers. He said the average letter carrier is 53 years old, and most have pension arrangements that would allow them to retire at 55. About 10,000 letter carriers retire each year.
Continuing declines in mail volume also made changes necessary, Potter said. American mailboxes receive an average of four pieces of mail each day, but projections show this may decline to three by 2020.
A spokesman for the National Assn. of Letter Carriers said the union opposed the cutbacks, and pointed to a recent report from the Postal Service inspector general that indicated the agency was pouring billions of dollars more than necessary into retirement funds.
"The Postal Service need to focus on reforming its pension costs instead," said the spokesman, Drew Von Bergen.
Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), who chairs the Senate panel overseeing postal operations, said this month that he supported cost reduction plans.
Carper's office said Monday that a panel hearing was tentatively scheduled in April to consider Postal Service finances.