Post office has new pay system

Postal Service workers don't have old-fashioned time sheets anymore.

The Time and Attendance Collection System, completed last month, replaces five time-keeping systems and lets officials more closely manage the operations of the Postal Service's 700,000-plus employees.

"For the first time, we have the time and attendance information of all our employees in one location," said Donna Peak, vice president of finance and controller. "It's huge, with the number of employees and system users."

Eliminating all paper time sheets, the system relies on electronic badges that postal employees swipe when they begin the workday, start a certain operation or change locations.

"We were buried in paper to the point where storage was a problem in some respect," said John Behan, a Postal Service accountant in revenue and field accounting.

The $40 million project is expected to save the Postal Service money by reducing the staff who dealt with paper time sheets. "Time keeper" positions were entirely eliminated, reducing the workforce by nearly 1,000 people, Peak said. The return on investment is expected to be more than 70 percent, she said.

Postal officials also expect increased efficiency, because managers can track where employees are and when. "We know what they're doing," she said. "We can evaluate and analyze the productivity. We have aggregate information that we can do comparisons from one plant to another."

Officials recognized a need nearly a decade ago, Peak said. In 1994, there was a massive crash of the Postal Source Data System, affecting the pay for 100,000 employees. "We knew the time was running out on that system," Peak said.

Research for the system began in 1997, when postal officials began testing products and the overall plan, Behan said. The new time system was rolled out in phases from February 2001 to July, beginning with the largest postal facilities. Smaller, rural offices that do not have Internet access use touchtone phones to enter data directly into the new system.

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