Springs postal processing center to close; 250 employees affected

Some Colorado Springs postal employees were left frustrated and with no answers about the future of their jobs when the U.S. Postal Service announced this week that it would shut down the Springs mail processing center at Union and Fountain boulevards.

The U.S. Postal Service said, after five months of study, that it would close the Colorado Springs Customer Service Mail Processing Center and move all mail processing operations to Denver sometime after May 15. About 250 employees will be affected by the closure.

Some postal employees who attended a meeting Thursday night said they got no answers about their jobs, said Chuck Bader, treasurer of the American U.S. Postal Workers Union No. 247. They were not told if they would be relocated or cut, he said.

“It’s really frustrating,” he said. “The standard answer was ‘We don’t know’ – a lot of people were upset.”

David Rupert, Colorado U.S. Postal Service spokesman, said the details of the employees’ future are still being worked out.

“We are going to try to find them places within Colorado Springs and the local area,” he said. “We are still working through the timeline. It will take several months, of when (the mail processing center) will close and who are the affected people and what kind of options they have.”

Across the country, 30,000 postal employees are affected by a series of postal services closures and consolidations. Rupert said employees have been presented with options, but the logistics of the all the moves are still in development.

“There are going to be a number of opportunities, including retraining, reassignment and some may opt to retire,” he said. “We are working within in our negotiated agreements on how to handle displaced employees.”

The U.S. Postal Service said the decision to close the Springs mail processing distribution center is part of a larger effort to reduce operating costs by $20 billion by 2015 and return the organization to profitability.

The U.S. Postal Service was once a growth employer reaching 800,000 employees at its height. In recent years, the postal service has experienced a 25 percent decline in first-class mail volume. In the last five years, the postal service reduced staff, through attrition, by 110,000. Today, there are roughly 560,000 postal employees.

“The decision to consolidate mail processing facilities recognizes the urgent need to reduce the size of the national mail processing network to eliminate costly underutilized infrastructure,” said Megan Brennan, U.S. Postal Service chief operating officer. “Consolidating operations is necessary if the postal service is to remain viable to provide mail service to the nation.”

More than 200 post office closures and consolidations were announced in September. But in December, the postal service agreed to hold off on closing or consolidating post offices and mail processing facilities until after May 15 to give Congress and the Administration the opportunity to enact an alternative plan.

This week’s announcement of the closure of the Colorado Springs center keeps that promise, Rupert said. The announcement was made early to give employees time to prepare for the changes.

“We are still hopeful we will have a long-term resolution,” Rupert said.

Congress is considering a request of going from six-day a week mail delivery to five days. It would save $3 billion a year. Also under consideration is a move to change how the U.S. Postal Service pays for future retiree benefits, something that costs $5.5 billion a year.

Even if those changes were made, it would not likely affect the closure and consolidation plan, Rupert said.

The impact of the Colorado Springs closure is that it could take two days for local mail delivery. The Union and Fountain postal center will still be open for customers to send out mail.

In the meantime, the Springs postal employees affected by the closure are planning a letter-writing campaign to Congressional leaders in hopes of moving the dial on the alternative plan for the U.S. Postal Service, Bader said.

“This not only affects the livelihoods of employees, but all of Colorado Springs residents,” Bader said. “What is most insulting is that they could fix the problem without closing any post offices.”