Sunday, October 04, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

In Paid to do nothing at the Federal Times, they take a look at the process of placing workers on "standby" at many mail sorting facilities in an effort to deal with the staggering decline in mail volume.

"The U.S. Postal Service, struggling with a massive deficit caused by plummeting mail volume, spends more than a million dollars each week to pay thousands of employees to sit in empty rooms and do nothing.

It’s a practice called “standby time,” and it has existed for years — but postal employees say it was rarely used until this year. Now, postal officials say, the agency is averaging about 45,000 hours of standby time every week — the equivalent of having 1,125 full-time employees sitting idle, at a cost of more than $50 million per year.

Mail volume is down 12.6 percent compared with last year, and many postal supervisors simply don’t have enough work to keep all employees busy. But a thicket of union rules prevents managers from laying off excess employees; a recent agreement with the unions, in fact, temporarily prevents the Postal Service from even reassigning them to other facilities that could use them.

“Volume has dropped, we don’t get the same mail receipts we used to get, and our overtime is already pretty much nil,” said Edward Jackson, the plant manager at the mail processing facility in Washington, D.C. “But we still have to keep them in a pay status. So we put them in the standby rooms.”

Lately, though, supervisors have been forced to stretch the definition of work.

“They just instruct employees to report to these holding areas,” said William Burrus, APWU’s president. “The employees resent it. ... They can’t work, they can’t read, they just sit there.”

I can't verify any of this article independently and for a website dedicated to Federal Management to criticize the Post Office is kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.

I am not necessarily anti-Postal Service, but I watch the lonely mail carrier drive past my house every day delivering my 20% off coupon from Bed, Bath and Beyond or another from Verizon and I cringe at the inefficiency. The Postal Service served a vital role in the development of the US over the past century but we need to look at ways to change and evolve its services to maintain its value in the coming century.

I don't normally dabble in rumors, but there remains a substantial groundswell of "rumors" invading the market that Chrysler's days are numbered. We're not talking days or weeks, but unless things improve remarkably, at this time next year Chrysler could be in really, really trouble. The problem I originally saw with the Fiat/UAW/Government deal was that no one had a real interest in making the deal work. Fiat received a 25% interest for agreeing to share technology, and the UAW received 55% for their concessions. Well, Fiat is in serious trouble in Europe and doesn't appear to be committed to providing financial support or management talent to resurrect Chrysler. The US consumer continues to downsize their vehicles - good for Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai/Kia - and that is bad news for Chrysler given that the bulk of their product offerings are still Jeeps, Rams and Minivans.

Now, there is a chance that these rumors are being floated by the company themselves in an effort to win more concessions from the UAW, but that's just the cynic in me....

One more follow-up to the jobs report on Monday. One over looked portion of the report was the giant "oopsie" that the BLS published. Do remember all of the green shoots rallies in the spring when the jobs reports kept coming in about 50k jobs "better than expected"?

For example, the consensus was that the economy would lose 400k jobs and when the actual numbers hit the tape it "surprised" the market by only losing 350k jobs? At the time, I pointed out that many of the same games the BLS played under the previous administration were continuing and the BLS was adding jobs to the report via their Birth/Death model that didn't exist.

Well, in this month's report we heard that over the past year the government "overstated the number of jobs created (or understated the amount of jobs lost) by about 840k jobs or roughly 70k jobs a month!! When you consider that much of the rally was fueled by the perception that the data showed things getting "worse more slowly" if you adjust the data for this revision, maybe things are still just getting worse. :(

Craziest thing I read: "The luxury Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island, adjacent to the Fairmont Orchid where I stayed, is quite literally mothballed. It is closed until November 1. Spooky and more than a little surreal to think of a 300-plus room resort taped off and deserted." I've had the pleasure of staying at the Mauna Lani Resort -- athletes and movie stars lounging around the pool with yours truly -- and I think this speaks to the breadth of the current economic downturn. The high-end resorts in Hawaii that cater to international customers are seeing such a steep drop in demand that they shutdown during the slow season.



Anonymous said...

I see Bloomberg finally ran a story the other day on the Birth death issue.

Meanwhile, rent a house in Kona on the ocean if you're going back to the big Island. Great way to spend a family vacation.


The Artful Blogger said...

I agree that Kona's the only place to stay. The weather is perfect every day.

Some members of my family that shall remain nameless seem to enjoy overpaying for things like room service, etc, but I'll work on trying to get in a house next time.

The Hermit said...

The post office just raised my po box rent to 100 bucks. The sign on the wall says mail will be sorted by 11:30 am. Mail truck delivers mail to PO at 11:45. Neat trick, huh?