WHAT: The U.S. Postal Service will lose about $9 billion this year due to slumping mail volume, but during the first six months of 2011 it paid idling workers $4.3 million for 170,666 hours of “standby time.”
WHY: Longtime labor agreements with the largest postal unions prohibit the Postal Service from laying off or reassigning workers because of broken equipment or periods of low mail volume.
WHAT’S BEING DONE: The USPS will start tougher tracking and monitoring of standby payments next month. Meanwhile, annual standby costs already plummeted from $30.9 million in the past two years.