USPS needs better overtime management, watchdog says
- By FederalSoup Staff
- Aug 31, 2020
The U.S. Postal Service needs to get a better handle on overtime, the agency watchdog said in an Aug. 25 report.
From FY 2014 to FY 2019, USPS paid out $25.8 billion in total overtime, the USPS Office of Inspector General reported. Costs associated with overtime increased 35% and hours grew 31%, exceeding budgets for those years. The number of employees who earned more in total overtime pay than their pay for regular straight time hours increased 429% -- from 758 to 4,008.
Additionally, unauthorized overtime was not effectively managed, the report said, noting that in FY 2019, 42% of USPS employees had unauthorized overtime. While five of the seven Postal Service areas saw an increase in unauthorized overtime, the Northeast Area had the highest increase at 37%, from 4.8 million to 6.6 million hours.
According to the IG, the excess overtime was the result of understaffing, inadequate oversight and data collection errors.
To address staffing issues, the IG recommended USPS look at locations using excessive overtime and determine “the optimal point at which hiring new staff becomes more cost efficient.” It should also hold appropriate management accountable for not reducing overtime and implement a data collection process that better identifies the reasons for overtime.
The IG’s analysis was conducted prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and did not reflect any operational changes resulting from the pandemic or those made to reduce inefficiencies in the network.
In July, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was reported to have issued plans to eliminate overtime, even if it meant the mail was not delivered on time. After complaints from constituents concerned about delayed deliveries, lawmakers called for DeJoy to explain his cost-cutting operational reforms.
In his Aug. 24 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, DeJoy denied directing the elimination of overtime: “[I]n fact, overtime has not been reduced since I became the Postmaster General. We were incurring overtime at a rate of approximately 13 percent prior to my arrival, and in June, July, and August, overtime is still at approximately 13 percent.”
USPS officials agreed with the IG’s recommendations, acknowledging that “opportunities exist in the oversight of work hours. As volumes and mail mix change however, increasing complement with the intent of reducing overtime may not be the best long-term solution,” they wrote in their audit response. “The appropriate use of overtime continues to give Management the greatest latitude to utilize its resources at the least possible cost while controlling future salaries and benefits of new employees.”