Postal service

US Postal Service seeks relief from COVID testing and vaccine rules

WASHINGTON, Jan 5 (Reuters) – The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has asked the Biden administration for temporary relief from new vaccines or testing requirements covering large businesses for its 650,000 employees, warning of potential impacts “catastrophic”.

Deputy Postmaster Doug Tulino, in a letter dated Tuesday seen by Reuters, called on the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to delay the deadline for the USPS complies with the agency’s vaccine or testing mandate for large businesses, covering more than 80 million American workers.

The USPS, one of America’s largest civilian employers, says it can’t meet deadlines, citing “insufficient staffing” and other issues.

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The USPS added that it faces time-consuming legal requirements to collect employee medical information and negotiate with unions representing employees.

Operating 30,000 sites nationwide, USPS says it will need to train “tens of thousands of local supervisors and managers” to monitor employee compliance.

The USPS seeks permission to continue using its current COVID-19 mitigation policies while the application is being decided.

“We respectfully suggest that the nation cannot afford the additional potential substantial harm that would be incurred if the Postal Service’s ability to deliver mail and packages were materially adversely affected,” the USPS wrote.

The USPS is not covered by Biden’s separate rules, which required 3.5 million federal workers to be vaccinated or obtain medical or religious exemptions by Nov. 22.

The USPS warned that the rules would likely result in the loss of “a lot of employees”.

He said asking the USPS “to absorb what could inevitably be a dramatic loss of employees at a time when the labor market is extremely tight and in the midst of the Postal Service’s peak season would have a potentially catastrophic impact. on our ability to provide services.”

A Department of Labor spokesperson said OSHA has received the request from the USPS and is reviewing it. OSHA determined that compliance was “achievable for employers with 100 or more employees, including the Postal Service,” the spokesperson added.

The Temporary Emergency Standard (ETS) released in November requires employees in organizations with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly and subject to strict face mask requirements. Last month, a US appeals court reinstated the ETS’s mandate.

On Friday, the Supreme Court is due to hear arguments on the issue.

OSHA last month extended the deadline for compliance, saying it would not issue citations until January 10 and would not issue citations for non-compliance with testing requirements until February 9 if employers complained. strive to comply.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio & Simon Cameron-Moore

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