The long talked about demise of Saturday mail delivery would become a reality early next year under a wide-ranging U.S. Postal Service cost-cutting blueprint unveiled Monday that would also slash thousands of front-line jobs.
"Given the fact that we're facing such a huge deficit, we'd like to move as quickly as possible," Postmaster General John E. Potter told a news conference.
Faced with a projected $238 billion deficit over the next decade, the Postal Service board of governors approved the cuts last week and ordered Potter to submit the proposal to the Postal Regulatory Commission today.
In addition to cutting one day a week from the delivery schedule, the proposal would eliminate the equivalent of 49,000 full- and part-time jobs, about 8 percent of the current work force of 600,000. Officials said the changes would save the Postal Service a projected $3.3 billion in the first year and about $5.1 billion annually by 2020.
Under the plan, mail carriers would stop street deliveries to U.S. homes and businesses on Saturdays as well as pickups from blue collection boxes. Mail would still be accepted at post offices on Saturdays but wouldn't be processed until after the weekend. Express mail and remittance mail services would continue to run seven days a week.
If approved by Congress and the regulatory commission, officials said they hoped to implement this plan by the first half of 2011.
Potter said the Postal Service would eliminate about 26,000 positions through employee attrition and lay off 13,000 part-time workers.
A spokesman for the National Association of Letter Carriers said the union opposes the service and job cutbacks, and pointed to a recent report from the Postal Service inspector general that indicated the agency was pouring billions of dollars more than it needed to into retirement funds.
"The Postal Service needs to focus on reforming its pension costs instead," said Drew Von Bergen, the spokesman.
Meanwhile, a Washington Post poll released Monday show 71 percent of Americans support ending Saturday mail deliveries to help the Postal Service solve its financial problems, but most oppose shuttering local branches.
The Washington Post contributed to this report.