APWU Complaint About Falsified Reports Prompts OIG Audit of Philadelphia P&DC
12/23/2008 - An APWU complaint that senior managers and other supervisors filed false mail-count reports at the Philadelphia Processing & Distribution Center has resulted in an exposé in the Philadelphia Daily News that has highlighted chronic understaffing at the facility and the devastating effect it has had on service. Shortly after the newspaper began reporting on the controversy on Dec. 1, the Office of Inspector General announced it was conducting an audit of the facility, and the facility’s top manager was replaced.
The union complaint, filed with the Postal Service's OIG on Oct. 24, alleged that high-ranking USPS officials had ordered clerks at the P&DC to drastically reduce the daily mail-count by millions of pieces each week. “We think they were doing that in order to justify staffing cutbacks and save on other expenses,” said Gwen Ivey, APWU Philadelphia Area Local president.
The efforts to reduce staff — and the elimination of overtime — concerned union officials, who had received notice over the summer that 162 employees at the facility would be excessed in January. “We believe the fake numbers were to help hide the fact that the outsourcing of employees might hurt service,” Ivey said.
In early December, the Daily News reported on the allegations that deliberate low-ball counts had been taking place for months, with tractor-trailers filled with unsorted mail being rerouted so that mail would go uncounted and that “daily color codes” were changed to make it appear that mail was not late.
When “calls, e-mails and messages poured in describing heartbreaking accounts of delayed and missing mail — and of postal workers upset they couldn't deliver the mail on time,” the newspaper published follow-up stories that backed up the union accounts of mismanagement.
The Daily News stories told readers that the phony records and a ban on overtime seemed to have resulted in a “chronically understaffed plant unable to process unsorted mail, which sat in overflowing bins for days and weeks.”
Postal inspectors began auditing the facility on Dec. 6 and are expected to take as long as two months before submitting a report.