Plenty of Americans would like to get paid to do nothing while at work, and it seems that workers for the U.S. Postal Service already enjoy that perk, although fewer of them are doing so.
The deliverer of the nation's mail paid $4.3 million for nearly 171,000 hours of standby time during the first six months of the year, The Washington Post reports, citing an audit released earlier this month by the Postal Service inspector general's office.
The amount is down substantially from 2009, when Postal Service employees racked up 1.2 million hours of standby time at a cost of $31 million.
What's more, the standby hours are a "mere fraction" of the millions of hours worked by postal workers each year, postal union officials tell the newspaper.
Postal workers have long been eligible for standby-time payments under the terms of their union contracts, but supervisors rarely used them until 2009, when mail volume began to plummet, the Post notes.
News of the payments comes at a time when the Postal Service is expected to lose about $9 billion this fiscal year and is planning thousands of layoffs and shuttering thousands of post offices.
In response to the audit, the Postal Service said it will begin cracking down on reporting of standby-time payments, beginning later next month.
But, as Jim Sauber, chief of staff for the National Association of Letters Carriers union, tells the Post, idle time is inevitable.
"This is a network industry," Sauber says. "And workers sometimes have to wait for trucks that are stuck in traffic to arrive with deliveries."
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