Postmaster Louis De Joy plans to strip away and relocate many back-end functions, like sorting, early next year as the U.S. Postal Service seeks to consolidate some functions at larger buildings. The Andover Post Office is among the 200 affected nationwide. Under the planned arrangement, Andover postal carriers will have to travel to Woburn to pick up the sorted mail for delivery.

According to an executive of the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, De Joy’s purpose for creating Sorting and Delivery Centers is to reduce transportation and mail-handling costs, while providing postal customers with additional services. The idea is that this will allow for easier standardization and management of operations, while improving building and operating conditions for employees. However, this initiative actually burdens the carriers with additional gas expenses, commuting time, and stresses on their home lives.

A majority of the Andover employees live north of the town, so they are looking at over two hours of daily commuting to and from the Woburn facility. Adding on the time traveling from Woburn to perform their Andover delivery duties results in around three extra hours a day on the roads, separate from performing their actual jobs.

According to mail carriers, the LLV’s they drive — gas-guzzling vehicles that average under 8 miles to a gallon — are terrible in inclement weather, and they could be put in harm’s way driving these distances in snowy, icy, or even hard rain. The additional fuel and related operational expenses, plus the wear and tear on the vehicles, preclude any sound financial reasoning or concern for the carriers’ safety, even though De Joy claims the changes will save costs on the contracted trucks that USPS hires to bring mail between various facilities.

This draconian change to the carriers’ work schedules and extra driving time also comes at a considerable cost in terms of human resource capital impacting present employee well-being and job satisfaction, as well as the ability for USPS to attract new employees and fill vacant positions.

One carrier echoed the sentiments shared by many of his colleagues: “Let’s keep the current operations at the Andover Post Office facility. Let’s keep the great service to the local residents and let’s keep the health and well-being of our loyal letter carriers and their families in our minds.”

Dr. William Kolbe, an Andover resident, is a retired high school and college teacher, former Peace Corps volunteer in Tonga and El Salvador, and a mentor in Big Friends Little Friends. He can be reached at Kolbe has joined the rotation of occasional columnists contributing to The Eagle-Tribune’s opinion pages.

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