Local mail centers saved, but some fear future cuts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local mail centers saved, but some fear future cuts

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The US Postal Service is continuing to slash services nationwide.  More than 200 mail processing centers will be consolidated or closed.  Those budget cuts are needed as the Postal Service reports more than $3 billion in losses in the first quarter of this year. 

It's bad news for many mail centers and their employees, but there's actually good news here in eastern Iowa.  Both the Waterloo and Cedar Rapids mail processing centers will stay open.  The two facilities were being studied for possible consolidation with other processing centers.  While there's a big sigh of relief, some fear the bleeding from Post Office cuts is far from over. 

"We had an unusually high volume of comments in both the Cedar Rapids and Waterloo areas.  So that means the employees got involved, and once they understood the issue, they took action," said Kimberly Karol, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 451.

While it's welcome news…

"That doesn't mean they're off the hook for good, just during this round," said Michael Birkett with the National Association of Letter Carriers.

After all, the Postal Service says it needs to shave $20 billion from its budget by 2015.  Proposals to end Saturday and next day delivery are still on the table.  And workers fear wage cuts, layoffs, and more facility closures could be in store, too.

"I think that they are dismantling a system that does not need to be dismantled," Birkett said.

The National Association of Letter Carriers argues the Postal Service could easily get out of the hole, estimating it actually netted $200 million in profits last quarter.  But a federal mandate to pre-fund healthcare benefits of future retirees drove losses up to a total of over $3 billion.

"We have to pre-fund retiree benefits up to 2081.  In effect, we're funding retirement benefits for people who have not been hired by the Postal Service yet and in some cases, many cases, who have not been born yet," said Birkett.

Postal workers picketed last fall against planned closures of mail facilities, while supporting legislation that would end the pre-funding requirement.  But such legislation is at a stand still.

The Postal Service says that ending its retirement pre-funding requirement is a legislative priority.  But so far, the Post Master General has only proposed measure involving facility closures and changes to mail delivery to cut costs.

Still, the Postal Service contends the pre-funding mandate isn't its only problem.  It expects mail volume to keep dropping as more people turn to the internet for everything from birthday greetings to paying bills.

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