Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service

70 .Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service
Table 16.-Projected Year 2000 USPS Labor Force Reductions Assuming 2-Percent
Underlying Mainstream Growth and 1.5. Percent Productivity Improvement
USPS mail volume
in billions of pieces

Conventional Generation II
EMS alternative mail mail
High but plausible growth ....... . 75.1 13.
Very high growth .............. 69.9 18.6
Moderate growth .............. 75.2 13.3
Slow growth .................. 81.8 6.7
High but plausible growth. ..... 75.1 26.9
Very high growth., ............. 69.9 37.2
Moderate growth. ............ 75.2 26.7
Slow growth .................. 81.8 13.4
aExpressed as a percentage of 1980 employee levels
bAssumes l00-percent EMS stimulation.
SOURCE Off Ice of Technology Assessment

separations (retirements plus quits minus new
hires) have averaged slightly under 1 percent.
This would be adequate to absorb the pro
jected labor reductions for the baseline alter
native (assuming 2 percent mainstream growth
and 1.5 percent productivity improvement).
But any significant drop in the retirement
and/or quit rates would mean fewer new hires,
restricted promotion opportunities, and lim
ited upward mobility. If the labor force reduc
tion was higher than the baseline, a further
cutback in new hires would be necessary. The
adjustment could be quite difficult for groups
that would be affected most, such as clerks
and mail handlers. All of these conditions
could adversely affect employee morale and
complicate future contract negotiations, and
deserve serious attention by USPS manage
ment and labor unions.
There is some evidence to suggest that re
tirement rates may decline in future years. As
of 1980, the age distribution of the USPS
workforce shows a bimodal distribution with
peaks at about age 58 and age 33. This means
that a peak has been passed in terms of the
numbers of employees reaching retirement
eligibility (age 55). Of course, many employees
wait until age 62 or 65 to retire. The age
distribution suggests that, for the next 17
years or so, decreasing although still signifi
cant numbers of USPS employees will be

Labor force
Total reduction
88.5 -23.3 0
88.5 - 23.3
88.5 - 23.3
88.5 - 23.3
102.0 -17.5
107.1 -15.3
101.9 -17.5
95.2 - 20.4

reaching retirement eligibility each year." In
addition, the removal of mandatory age 70
retirement restrictions may encourage some
employees to work longer, and the poor state
of the economy could discourage retirements
and quits. Whether or not this poses a problem
would depend on the actual retirement and
quit rates in the late 1980's and early 1990's,
the time when the need for significant labor
force reductions (due to declining USPS de
livered mail volume) is first likely to be felt.
Finally, as noted earlier, the impact of labor
force reductions would fall unevenly on the
various employee groups. For example, the
mail handlers would be hit especially hard,
since to a substantial extent their current
skills would not be needed in processing elec
tronic mail. This might be one employee group
where retraining opportunities for possible
EMS jobs might be emphasized. Another re
lated concern is that, as of late 1978, the mail
handlers as a group had one of the highest
percentages of black employment, more than
double the USPS wide average.l6Thus, the
possibility exists that labor reductions might
fall disproportionately on black and perhaps
other minority employment. This possibility
warrants further study.
"Ibid., p. 8.
"Ibid., p. 11.

United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc39480/. Accessed September 20, 2014.