Big changes to the U.S. Postal Service nationally translate into only small changes locally.
The postal service announced Wednesday that it will stop delivering mail on Saturdays, but continue to deliver packages six days a week. According to Patrick R. Donahoe, postmaster general and CEO, cutting services will save the Postal Service an estimated $2 billion a year.
Karen Mazurkiewicz, spokeswoman for the Western New York district, said that the savings mainly come from personnel, transportation and operational costs. She said the postal service has career employees, career carriers and temporary carriers working.
"We are just starting this initiative, so it's probably even premature to talk about what option those employees would have," Mazurkiewicz said. "But, if we look backwards, over our shoulder, over the last four or five months, we've been doing some initiatives with post office hours - some consolidation of mail processing."
Those initiatives, Mazurkiewicz said, include retirement pushes. Nationwide, roughly 27,000 people have already taken advantage of those initiatives.
"So, coming back to the next six months, those are the kinds of discussions we will be having with our labor unions, to see how we can transition this as smoothly as possible with minimum impacts to employees," she said.
Additionally, although she didn't know how many employees would be affected locally, Mazurkiewicz said nationally there will be between 22,000 and 25,000 impacted positions within the Postal Service. However, she did not predict major changes within the area due to previous practices.
"Locally, we have not hired aggressively for some of our carriers, just because we've always kind of been cautious about what things were coming down the line as we've improved mail processing," she said.
Several years ago, before advances in technology, carriers would spend part of their day sorting mail. The other part of the day would be delivering it.
Now, Mazurkiewicz said carriers spend only around an hour in the post office. The rest of the time is spent focused on their designated routes.
"So, what that has meant is that over the last 20 years, we haven't had to hire carriers," she said. "As they retire, we adjust their delivery routes because of the improvements in technology to do less manual sortation, more automated sortation, and then maximize what the carrier does best, and that's deliver the mail."
Locally, over the years, temporary employees and carriers have been used to fill gaps when a union employee is on vacation or on a long-term disability. Whether there will be changes to this system locally is yet to be seen.
"We hope, in the next five or six months, that we'll get to see that employees have options, that we're responsible by them for them and that we'll be able to place people who are going to stay with the postal service in places where they're needed," Mazurkiewicz said.
CHANGES FOR CUSTOMERS
Under the Postal Service's new plan, mail and packages will still be delivered to homes and businesses Monday through Friday. However, only packages will be delivered to customers on Saturday.
"What customers can expect is that on Saturday their mailman or mailwoman won't be showing up at their house or their business with a hand full of letters and cards. They'll only be showing up at their house if they have a package that needs to be delivered," Mazurkiewicz said.
However, if customers have a post office box, mail will continue to be delivered to the box six days a week, as it had previously. Post offices will be maintaining their Saturday hours, although the delivery service will not. According to Mazurkiewicz, many customers in Chautauqua County receive mail to a post office box, especially those living in smaller communities.
"Their mail will still be in their box Monday through Saturday, whether it's a letter, a card, a catalog or a package," she said. "So, they'll see no changes."
Additionally, people who use "snail mail" will experience a delay if they choose to drop their letters in a collection box, as mail will no longer be collected from the boxes on Saturdays. In this case, mail from a collection box will not be picked up until the following Monday.
"Outgoing mail, even though you can tender it to the postal service, it's not going to start on its way until all of our transportation is back engaged on Monday morning," Mazurkiewicz said.
POST OFFICE HOURS
"Over the last several months, we have been modifying post office hours," Mazurkiewicz said. "Those modifications are Monday through Friday only."
Several years ago, the postal service proposed closing some of its smaller offices. However, people living in smaller communities strongly opposed doing so.
As a result, instead of completely closing, many post offices cut down on hours Monday through Friday.
"Even in the offices that are getting modified hours Monday through Friday, Saturday stays the same," Mazurkiewicz said. "With this initiative, Saturday hours stay the same. There will be no change to that."
Some area post offices are already feeling the effects of hours being cut. In December, it was announced that the post office in Kennedy would have its hours cut to six per day while maintaining its Saturday hours of 10 a.m. until noon.
Additionally, new hours at the Findley Lake Post Office already have taken effect. The new hours of the post office are now 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. The post office will continue to be open from 10 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. Saturdays.
Meanwhile, Jamestown Post Office is, so far, continuing its hours of Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon. In Dunkirk, so far, service is continuing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays.