Postal officials clear way for negotiated rate case settlement

The U.S. Postal Servicesaid Wednesday that it will not raise postage rates before June 30 or file for another rate hike in fiscal 2002.

The announcement by Postmaster General John Potter, coming in the wake of reports that settlement negotiations in this year’s rate case were at an impasse, clears the way for an early end to hearings before the Postal Rate Commission. The USPS seeks to raise rates next summer by an average of 8.7%.

“This really puts us much closer to a settlement than we were before,” said Neal Denton, Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers executive director. “The postal service is really working with mailers to come up with a fair approach to implementing this case which in turn allows both the USPS and mailers to focus their efforts on more important tasks for the new year.”

Besides changing its position on implementing the new rate schedule and the timing of the next rate case, postal officials extended the original Friday, Dec. 28 deadline for rate case participants to sign the agreement to next Wednesday, Jan. 3.

“Chairman Omas deserves a lot of credit for initiating these discussions. Without his prodding, I don’t think they would have gotten off the ground,” Denton added.

Potter said in a statement that both sides had a “critical need to resolve this issue and conclude the pending case so that we may turn our attentions to other important matters that have challenged all of us in these extraordinary times.”

Potter, noting the USPS has no immediate plans to file for another rate increase this calendar year, said he would “prefer not to have to begin the process of seeking further [rate] increases during fiscal 2002.” But, he pointed out that postal governors based on both the postal service’s finances and the state of the national economy would make decision.

The unprecedented negotiations began in late October at the suggestion of PRC Chairman George Omas who cited the national crisis, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the discovery of anthrax-laced letters in the mail stream.

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