Magazine article Insight on the News

Businesslike Postal Service Can Deliver

Magazine article Insight on the News

Businesslike Postal Service Can Deliver

Article excerpt

Delivering the mail is important work. It's the way much of America communicates. People count on the mail to send and receive information. Businesses count on the mail to bring customers in the door and dollars to the bottom line. The mail is a basic right - a service guaranteed to everyone, everwhere, every day.

Yet, at the same time, the mail is but one product in a very competitive marketpalce. It's one of dozens of communications services for sale to business and consumers. It must compete each day with the phone, the fax, the Internet and the Federal Expresses and United Postal Services of the world.

When I became postmaster general two years ago, our customers gave me a mandate: "Run it like a business." Make the Postal Service the "businesslike public service" envisioned in the Postal Reorganization Act. We've made changes and progress.

But there are problems we can't fix ourselves. We have a 1970s law that isn't cutting it in the '90s. It gives us the responsibility, but not the authority, to deliver. We need to fix it, and fix it now. We're ready to go to work with the Congress, the administration and the American people.

There are three areas of change we need to look at: people, prices and products.

People: The vast majority of our 729,000 full-time employees do a great job, especially when you consider that regulations and red tape hold them back from serving their customers. The problems start with corrective bargaining, a process that the unions and management both agree is broken. Three of the last five contracts had to be settled by outsiders, people who aren't accountable to postal customers. We're headed there again. Why? Arbitration laws discourage agreement by encouraging both sides to walk away from the table and pass the buck.

There are other problems. We're stuck with work rules that don't work. We must make it simpler, not harder, for our people to do their jobs. Compensation is tied to seniority, not performance. We need to encourage excellence. I'd like to see incentive pay rewarding employees for their best efforts.

Prices: The postal rate-setting process is little short of trench warfare. It pits product against product, customer against customer, presidential board against presidential board. Competitors lobby to raise our prices, so they can raise theirs. …

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