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Saturday, January 29, 2022

Some Maine mail routes see slow delivery as job vacancies plague USPS

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Bangkok, Maine (WABI) – The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for the United States Postal Service. But for postal workers both here in Maine and across the country, the job has become overwhelming.

TV5 heard about some residents who went days without getting their email. We spoke to local business leaders about what caused the problem and what steps they would recommend to fix it.

“I have worked 32 years as a mail carrier. I have never seen mail that never come out unless there are weather conditions, and it has only happened twice,” said Cheryl Ellrich, president of NALC Branch 391.

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Between job openings and injured employees, Elrich estimates that the city of Bangor is missing about a quarter of its mail carriers.

“It’s hard for them,” Ellrich said. “I just spoke to one guy today. He’s got two days off in the last 38 days. They work seven days a week, 14, 15 hours a day.”

At the USPS office on Godfrey Drive in Orono, the problem is shrouded by a COVID-19 outbreak among staff.

“They’re trying to spin [routes] So someone does not receive their mail continuously. “I know there are some cracks in the system,” Ellrich said.

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Mark Seitz, president of NALC Branch 92, says there’s another reason some people lose mail.

“This time of year, hmm [management] Just focus on firmness. “You know, if they’re surveyed, that’s what they care about,” Seitz said. “But all of this stuff, letters, Social Security checks and Christmas cards and corporate payroll checks and utility bills, all of these things are not being delivered because they want the packages to be delivered.”

Elrich and Seitz both agree that the hiring process needs reform, including higher wages and an acceleration of the schedule.

“They should make working at the post office more attractive,” Ellrich said. “It won’t help right away because the hiring process can take up to two months, which is another issue.”

“The Postal Service has the ability to make people a career right away when they join it, and that’s a big difference,” Seitz said. “The benefits are much better. The hourly salaries are just over $2 an hour. I think if they go to that step, instead of trying to save money, and hire them to work off the street, they will get a lot of applicants and I think more people will stay.”

In a statement to TV5, the USPS said:

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose unprecedented challenges and occasionally affects staff availability. We thank our customers for their continued understanding and support.

We have taken specific actions to continue providing service to our valued customers, which include:

  • Continue to fully delegate overtime to allow employees to work in time for mail delivery
  • Expand mail delivery to early in the morning, later in the evening, and on Sunday to ensure customers receive mail as soon as possible
  • Use additional carriers from neighboring offices, when necessary, to maintain mail delivery.
  • Hiring additional employees. We currently have job openings for 48 pre-employment positions across Maine. This includes urban and rural letter carriers, local distribution and window clerks as well as mail handlers and mail processing clerks to work at our distribution facilities. Readers can access these positions by visiting usps.com/careers And search by state for vacancies. New posts are added to the site weekly.

As part of Postmaster General’s Delivery for America plan, we recently installed 112 new package sorters across the country and added more than 100 new facilities to handle ever-increasing package sizes. To staff these facilities, we have aggressively recruited and hired throughout the year.

Since the holiday season usually brings a massive bulge in parcel volumes, it’s normal this time of year for carriers to send out on dedicated parcel tours, sometimes early mornings or even Sundays. But this is done in addition to, not in place of, regular mail delivery.

As we move past these short-term staff availability issues, we will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that our Maine customers receive the kind of first-class service they expect and deserve.

Once again, we appreciate customers’ patience and understanding, and we are proud of our 630,000+ employees working to provide services to our customers during the pandemic.”

But Seitz says he wants to take concrete action.

“There is something that needs to be done,” Seitz said. “We really need someone to step up to the top and actually take a stand and actually get it done because nothing is working.”

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Copyright 2021 WABI. All rights reserved.

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