By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
A new report confirms what a lot of postal customers have been saying for months: mail service isn’t as good as it used to be.
That’s the verdict that the Postal Regulatory Commission delivered March 28, declaring there has been “a recent dramatic decline of service performance” for single-piece letters and postcards, and that all forms of first-class mail had failed to be delivered as quickly as promised.
“Service performance results for all first-class mail products … (two) periodicals products, most products in standard mail and bound printed matter flats did not meet their targets despite Postal Service initiatives to improve performance,” the report said.
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That was a reference to previous reports by the commission, but the latest report was the strongest the panel has issued on shortcomings in first-class mail.
Those mailings long have been the most profitable segment for the USPS, providing the bulk of funds needed for the agency’s overall operations.
But the report noted that “Significantly, for the first time since the Commission began evaluating the service performance of the Postal Service, no First-Class Mail products met their service performance targets.”
The commission, currently composed of four presidential appointees, gave the Postal Service 90 days to respond to the findings.
Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer told Linn’s: “The Postal Service is committed to improving service and has deployed all available resources to achieve results and engage the public in its efforts.”
He also cited a brief that USPS had filed with the commission. It concluded that “the Postal Service has a comprehensive plan in place to improve service performance and the plan is yielding results.”
A bipartisan group of senators pressing for financial assistance to the deficit-ridden Postal Service called the commission’s conclusions unacceptable.
“The American people deserve fast, affordable and dependable service,” they said in a joint statement.
The group said the findings illustrate how urgently the Postal Service needs to be “repaired,” and asserted “Our bill would begin to do that.”
Twenty-four of the “work sharing discounts” given to large mailers were improper because postal workers could have done the work at a cost lower than the discounts, the commission also said.
The American Postal Workers Union reported on March 24 that the USPS has told Congress that its plan to resume consolidations of 70 more mail processing plants has been delayed.
The Postal Service’s one-year moratorium on plans to consolidate more facilities was to expire in April.
But the union said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman told a member of Congress that the USPS would update its feasibility studies before resuming the planned closings.
“I appreciate the Postal Service’s decision to take a closer look at what plant closings and consolidations are doing to service,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein in a union statement.
“But it’s not enough for management to update studies they conducted years ago,” the union leader said.
“Given the new circumstances, it is essential that the Postal Service hold community meetings and solicit input from the public again,” Dimondstein said.
The union has been seeking a continued moratorium on plant closings and consolidations for the life of any new contract, but the union said the USPS has yet to say when the latest deferral will end.
The APWU has said the failure of the USPS to meet its mail delivery standards is a reason to stop consolidating processing plants.
The USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services Center also came in for some criticism.
The commission has complained that costs of running the Kansas City, Mo., center, which sells stamps by mail to collectors and the general public, has exceeded its revenues for years.
However, it noted that the center has consistently cut that margin and in fiscal 2015 its $3.9 million in revenues covered 81.5 percent of its $4.6 million in attributable costs.
It also noted that the center’s financial numbers do not fully “capture the value that the Services Center adds to the Postal Service and to other Postal Service products.”