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A group of postal workers and two politicians voiced their opposition Friday night to the U.S. Postal Service’s proposed closure of a College Point facility that could leave hundreds of jobs in limbo.
Stephen Larkin, vice president of the Flushing chapter of the United Postal Workers Union, said that USPS has not made clear what will happen to the workers at the plant who number about 1,000.
“We have clerks, mail handlers, maintenance and motor vehicle operators that will be affected and they won’t give us any information about what they plan to do,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the USPS said that about 700 workers will be relocated to other jobs.
The proposed closure of the facility — one of nearly 300 that USPS would like to shutter across the nation at the expense of 35,000 jobs — would save the struggling system nearly $31 million, according the spokeswoman said.
Larkin said that there is a layoff clause in their contract, but that he suspects the USPS will try to circumvent it anyway.
The spokeswoman said “changes are being sought after” with regard to the contracts, though USPS would work to find everybody a landing spot.
If the plant is eventually consolidated or closed, the work would instead be done in Brooklyn or in Manhattan.
The switch would not cause any delay in service, the spokeswoman said, but USPS is changing the definition of first-class mail on a national level.
Instead of some mail arriving in one day, it will soon take two to three days if the cost-cutting proposal goes through in March and is approved by Congress.
A USPS spokeswoman said that while the mail will be slower because of the policy change, it will not be due to the consolation of facilities all over the country.
But City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) cited traffic between the two boroughs as reason to question USPS’s statement.
He also took issue as to why the Queens facility was slated for closure in the first place.
“They wouldn’t tell us how they reached the conclusion to close this the facility instead of Brooklyn,” he said.
But the USPS’s budget woes have another source as well, according to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) who also spoke at the hearing.
In 2006 the U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring the USPS to pay pension costs for an employee upfront — a process that Avella called “absurd,” and U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) sought to overturn by co-signing legislation earlier this year.
Pre-funding pensions means that when a new employee is hired, the USPS must pony up the money for that person’s benefits in one lump sum. It costs the postal service, which is the only agency required to do so, about $5.5 billion a year, Avella said.
Workers will find out in March whether the facility will be closed or consolidated pending congressional approval.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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