Potter season at the movies and at the Post Office. As the
Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers notes, the young Potter "apparate a
shimmering pile of magic gold - at just the right time" (in
referring to the Postal Service's recent finding of $27 billion in
an overfunded retirement account).
Those who thought that
former postal clerk Jack Potter would be just another ordinary
Postmaster General better think again. A year ago, postal
prospects never looked bleaker. Today, postal prospects haven't
looked better in several years. The service's rosy outlooks are
largely due to the direction of Potter, who has maneuvered the
Postal Service through a difficult period and outmaneuvered
several postal labor unions in contract negotiations.
successes have been a combination of circumstances, coincidences,
and personal savvy. Take for example the Transformation Plan,
which was championed by Potter. The plan was being finalized when
terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the mail system in
September and October of last year. The attacks temporarily
precipitated the anticipated decline in mail volumes and the need
for transformation. As a result, during the course of this past
year, Potter has been able (forced) to trim administrative staff,
streamline postal operations, and consolidate functions - key
components of the plan. Today, the Postal Service is leaner and
mail volumes are returning to pre 9/11 levels!
Potter has also been
able to use the events of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks to his
advantage in labor contract negotiations. The National Association
of Letter Carriers (NALC) was enticed into a negotiated contract
settlement that promised only modest wage increases over the
course of several years. This job and wage security seemed
attractive to many union members in the aftermath of the terror
attacks and the resulting postal crisis. Many members were happy
to get anything at all. Potter was able to close the deal before
(comparable) United Parcel Service workers were able to secure a
lucrative contract from their employer. (It makes you wonder what
kind of business intelligence Potter receives from the U.S.
Government.) Potter has also placated the American Postal Workers
Union (APWU). Just recently, even after $27 billion in
overpayments to the CSRS fund were found by the OPM and the USPS,
APWU leadership agreed to a tentative contract extension offer
that offered only meager wage increases and a "promise" for the
OPM to consider "special retirement opportunities". APWU President
William Burrus defended the agreement, stating that postal
finances could be worse a year from now and that the $27 billion
savings did not add one dime to Postal Service coffers. (However,
the find could turn a projected $600 million surplus into a $3.5
billion surplus for fiscal year 2003 alone.) Additionally, the
Postal Service was able to secure a favorable judgment from an
arbitrator in rural carrier contract negotiations that is saving
the Postal Service millions of dollars annually.
Moreover, due to the
temporary drop in both mail volumes and postal finances as a
result of the terror attacks, Potter and the Postal Service were
able to secure a postage rate increase that took effect in June
2002. Additionally, Potter was able to cancel the Postal Service's
controversial executive bonus program due to the Postal service's
supposed financial shortfalls.
Potter's vision appears to be 20/20. Potter has advanced
components of his Transformation Plan, obtained favorable
contracts with the service's labor unions, secured a postage rate
increase, and eliminated executive bonuses, all before $27 billion
was found by the OPM in overpayments to the CSRS retirement fund.
As it turns out, the Postal Service wasn't doing as bad as people
thought it was. In fact, there would not have been any postal
deficits if the overpayments had not been made. Instead, the
Postal Service would have been showing profits of a billion
dollars or more each of the past several years. Though fundamental
postal problems remain, decisive actions by Postmaster General
Potter have placed the Postal Service in a manageable situation
through the next several years:
- The Postal Service
is leaner and more efficient.
- Favorable and long-term labor contracts are providing financial
stability (and savings).
- Postage rates are sufficient to cover operating expenses for the
next several years.
- The Civil Service Retirement System has been found to be almost
fully funded. (Eat your hearts out Enron, WorldCom, and ImClone.)
- Transformation Plan initiatives will continue to be advanced.
Potter magic isn't
only at the movie theaters this season!