The press release was published right after the Postal Service released two important white papers that discuss legislative changes that would result in major changes in labor contracts, employee benefits, and funding for retiree benefits.
These white papers included significant changes to layoff provisions and full-time employment comitments now in labor agreements that if negotiated would be a major concession by Postal Service unions. The changes in benefits included would also be significant, although it is less clear how deep they would cut the compensation package now received by Postal Service employees regarless of their union status. While clearly unpopular with major postal unions, it is not clear how far they are from what is often agreed to by unions in contracts negotiated under the threat of a creditor driven liquidation.
The legislative proposal also introduces a quid-pro-quo on labor cost reductions that affect current postal employees by requiring that the creditor (the Office of Personnel Management(OPM)), transfer the management of assets and liabilities of retiree benefit accounts to the Postal Service which could have the affect of reducing the Postal Service's costs for retiree benefits depending on how the assets and liabilities transferred are calculated. The transfer will reduce OPM revenue by eliminating the Postal Service's retiree health care liablitiy payments but also reduces OPM's benefit service costs for existing retirees. The Postal Service clearly hopes that this proposal works around the budget roadblocks that have prevented an agreement on fixing the retiree liability issues.
The press release's timing and appeal to theTea Party supporter's "bailout" hot button suggests that the Postal Service's white papers are receiving serious consideration on Capital Hill. Stakeholders should see that these papers are viewed as the basis for an alternative to the sections Representative Issa and Ross's bill dealing with Postal Service labor contracts and retiree liabilities. How long this serious consideration lasts now depends less on union oposition and more on whether the proposal gets tagged as a "bailout" and must be reflexively opposed by the core of the Republican party.