Postal workers & customers seeing progress in mail flow

Posted: December 16, 2008

The mail is starting to move again, say postal workers and customers.

No longer are hundreds of overflowing bins of unprocessed mail blocking passageways inside the U.S. Postal Service's processing plant on Lindbergh Boulevard near Island Avenue, postal workers told the Daily News yesterday.

In the past week, several local post offices have had an increase in mail volume, possibly from the plant and/or holiday mail, according to postal workers.

"We used to know when they were hiding the mail, because it was only a trickle," said a postal worker.

Postal workers credit regional manager Jim Gallagher for returning to a once-ignored USPS policy of "first-in, first-out."

"Gallagher has been all over the place," said Gwen Ivey, president of the American Postal Workers Union, Local 89. "We talk and he's busy, and he's only been here a week."

After a yearlong ban, overtime for postal workers was reinstated last week in an effort to reduce the backlog at the processing plant.

"I haven't seen space like that since we moved in the building," one postal worker said, referring to the fact that bins filled with delayed mail had covered the floor for months.

Even the Kerala Express, a Chicago-based weekly that publishes news from India, was "only one day late," said Vincente Emmanuel, the Kerala Express circulation manager based in Philadelphia.

The newspaper's case of extreme delay was highlighted in a Daily News story about how the slow mail was hurting local businesses.

"That's the first time that's happened since 2006" when the mail-sorting operation moved from 30th and Market streets to Southwest Philadelphia, said Emmanuel.

For years, Emmanuel said, the newspaper has been "two or three weeks late," prompting 30 percent of the Philadelphia-area subscribers to drop the newspaper.

Emmanuel first noticed an improvement in mail delivery a week ago, when the newspaper was only a week late, instead of two.

At the Olney post office, "we were overloaded with parcels" yesterday, a postal worker said. "We've had a busy week."

However, postal workers say that staffing issues are still a problem at local branches.

A postal worker said the supervisors at the Olney station are allegedly not counting the mail volume correctly for the carriers.

"Usually we carry four trays of mail, but now we're getting five or six trays," said a letter carrier. "They want us back in eight hours, but it takes more than eight hours to deliver."

At the Torresdale station, supervisors "are actually giving overtime and the mail is getting done," said another postal worker. "As of last week, the supervisor actually brought in people to move it.

The worker added that a regional USPS official and city director Kurt Schmidt visited the station Thursday to check on mail conditions.

"They were very, very interested in the box section," where customers have their own post-office boxes, said the postal worker.

"There used to be three people dedicated to putting the mail in boxes; now there's only one," the worker said. "That's when we found out about the scan points on the wall" - a bar code to be scanned after all the mail was put into the mail boxes.

When deliveries were late, supervisors scanned the bar code at 9:30 a.m. even if no mail was in the boxes, said the worker.

So employees recorded the number of times supervisors scanned the codes without mail in boxes, said the postal worker.

Between Nov. 19 and yesterday, the bar code was scanned 12 times by supervisors when mail boxes were not filled, or about 50 percent of the time. *

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