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Guest post by Older and Wiser.
Older and Wiser is a rural carrier.
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This is how I see it!
This is a continuation of my first article where I outlined the problem that the USPS will have in attracting future rural carriers and RCAs. Whenever I look at a problem, I try to find a solution or solutions to correct the situation and that is the subject of this commentary.
Whenever a new RCA comes into the post office, you might as well start an over/under pool to bet on how long the new person will stay. I have never seen a position, except low-paying service jobs, where the attrition rate is so high. I believe I might have an answer. I haven’t taken the 473 test for new RCAs in many years, but as I remember it, the test was part intelligence/part aptitude test. I think the test needs to be changed. The current test may be a good measurement of what a person has here (pointing to my head), but not a good measure of what a person has here (pointing to my heart). Does the person have the inner strength, intestinal fortitude, or just plain guts to persevere through that tough first couple of months or first year and keep plugging away until they feel comfortable in the job? The Postal Service needs to consult with one of those companies that design this type of test that can measure these attributes as well as intelligence. This should raise the probability of a person staying on the job permanently.
It seems that since the local PMs and were taken out of the hiring process, there seems to be a long time between a prospect’s first contact with the USPS and the actual hiring. One reason may be that the people who are doing the hiring are not sharing the pain of not having people in place. If they got the calls at 6am in the morning and had to scurry around to find replacements for that day, the hiring process may happen in a more expedient manner. PMs should have the power they had taken away and given the ability to scout out replacements on their own. How many RCAs/regulars started after seeing a sign in front of a post office and went in to get more information. PMs have the incentive that the districts lack. Any possible sub that the PM likes (that means breathing and not a serial killer) will still need to go through all the Postal Service steps of due diligence, but the PM can keep an eye on the process to make sure the prospect can stay on the fast track.
As I stated in my previous article, who would want to work for an organization like the USPS where all the recent news has been negative? When the military draft ended in the 1970s, the Armed Forces started advertising campaigns to attract new volunteers. The USPS needs to do the same, but on a smaller scale. We do not need to fill the large number of positions the military did, so a television campaign wouldn’t be needed, but the USPS needs to get the positive word out about how the Postal Service could be a viable occupation. How about killing two birds with one stone? We could reach out to military veterans as they end their tour of duty. Don’t wait for them to contact the Postal Service, hand them a letter as part of their out processing that invites them to visit their local post office and talk with the PM about positions there or in the vicinity. Not only would you be talking to people who have been working in a structured and disciplined environment, you would generate positive advertising about how the USPS is really trying to help our veterans. Positive publicity like that would be worth more than any advertising campaign.
People learn at different rates and I think the 90 day probationary time period is too restrictive and should be lengthened to 120 or even 150 days. This would allow people who need a little more time to learn the process the ability to relax and learn at a slower pace. Some people may never be as quick as others in completing a route. If you only look at speed, then you may be missing other attributes that are just as important for a sub to have. What good is speed if the carrier won’t answer a phone to cover for an ill regular carrier on a snowy day? What good is speed if the sub curtails mail until the next day for the regular carrier? What good is speed if the sub doesn’t handle the office side of the job as well as the on-the-road side? The slower sub may be more reliable, more organized and more flexible than the speedy sub. It just may take more than 90 days to see it.
Of course, I need to bring up the lowering of the new RCA pay scale. The recent incentives given to new RCAs and regular carriers in the Dakotas may be an extreme case, but with that happening right after the article on locality pay, you can see a trend where the pay of new RCAs and regulars makes it all the more difficult in finding and retaining people. The USPS has to reconsider restoring the old RCA pay grades. How about making RCAs into PTFs? Are we that much different from city carriers? The local city carrier union newsletter talks about the difficulty and retaining City Carrier Assistants (like RCAs). Wake Up USPS! The economy is changing. Give a reason for people to consider the Postal Service as a career, not just a job?
My next blog will be the second most important item USPS management must resolve that will affect rural carriers in the future.