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Postal Service bonus plan is ill-timed, unwarranted



Published: Fri, July 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Here's another item for your "Only In Government" file: The U.S. Postal Service is facing a $2 billion -- yes, with a "b" -- deficit this year, but the postmaster general believes that hundreds of senior executives deserve a bonus.

Here's what John Potter had to say in a letter dated July 3 to 900 managers: "This year our productivity is up. By pulling together, we can minimize our loss and earn additional pay for the performance achieved."

Minimize the Postal Service's loss by giving bonuses of up to 25 percent of the executive's salaries? The deficit is already in the billions, so how does increasing the cost of operations lessen that burden? The postmaster general doesn't say, but it seems to us that he and his brain trust need a reality check.

Layoffs: At a time when American companies big and small are freezing salaries and even laying off employees, it seems inconceivable that a struggling government-sanctioned monopoly would decide to give its highest paid employees a special reward.

As Gene Del Polito, president of the Association for Postal Commerce, which represents direct-marketing and catalog companies, put it, "You cannot raise rates, run deficits and at the end of the day tell people you're going to give bonuses. If they wanted to kill the prospect that Congress would ever attend to their needs, this would do it."

The Postal Service is already viewed with a jaundiced eye by many on Capitol Hill. The relationship soured even more not too long ago when the service announced that it was considering cutting Saturday delivery. Congress let it be known that such a move was unacceptable.

As we pointed out in an editorial earlier this year, the 226-year-old service has been a constant in the life of this nation and represents the ultimate in government service to the public. For many Americans, Saturday delivery is a part of their lives.

Operational costs must be cut if the goal of reducing spending by $2.5 billion by 2003 is to be achieved, but how can the Postal Service justify slashing 70,000 jobs -- there are 798,000 on the payroll -- when it turns around and gives bonuses to senior executives?

Tax dollars: It has been suggested that the proposal to end Saturday delivery was designed to force Congress to support the Postal Service with tax dollars. If that's true, Postmaster General Potter and his circle of advisers misread the mood on Capitol Hill. And talk of bonuses certainly won't win them any applause from members of Congress.

It's time for the board of governors of the Postal Service to develop a cost-reduction plan that involves job cuts, consolidation of post offices and, if necessary, closing plants. The top priority must not be to line the pockets of top managers.




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