The U.S. Postal Service proposed the elimination of three clerk positions at the Decatur post office in an effort to improve its financial footing, a move a union official said could result in longer lines.

A July 16 letter from Doug Lane, manager of labor relations for the Southwest area, said a study of the Decatur post office operations on Well Street Northeast justified reducing the number of clerks from 12 to nine by Oct. 31.

Three clerks at the Decatur post office will be offered jobs at other post offices within 50 miles of Decatur in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement with the American Postal Workers Union, Lane’s letter said.

“All our actions are geared toward addressing and improving our financial situation,” Debra Fetterly, a Postal Service spokeswoman for Alabama, said Tuesday.

Shelton Thomas, state president of the Postal Workers Union, said eliminating three clerk positions will result in long waits for customers.

“We’re hoping they’ll take a re-look at this entire process,” he said Tuesday.

Gary Wright, of Decatur, left the post office late Tuesday afternoon without waiting in line inside. That was unusual, he said.

“Every time I’ve been in here, day to day, it’s been busy as heck,” he said.

Wright said the Postal Service needs to improve efficiency instead of reducing staff.

“I don’t think they need to lose anybody,” he said.

Thomas said the union has not discussed the proposal with Postal Service officials, but he plans to bring up the issue at an upcoming union meeting in Birmingham.

“There’s not much dialogue now,” he said. “They can withdraw it anytime up to the last day.”

Thomas said two of the office’s 12 clerks are on limited duty in the office’s worker compensation program, effectively reducing to 10 the number of clerks who can perform all duties.

“If you lost three clerks on top of what you have now, you’re dead in the water,” he said.

Thomas said customers can expect longer waits in line if the cuts are made.

Fetterly said the proposed changes in Decatur are part of the Postal Service’s changes in operations to address excess capacity from a major decrease in first-class mail volume. The changes are necessary to improve the organization’s viability, she said.

“There are considerably fewer letters and significantly more packages, and the network must reflect the shift in the marketplace and how customers are using the Postal Service,” she said.

The Postal Service worked to minimize the effects of the operational changes on customers and employees, Fetterly said.

The Postal Service reported a $586 million loss in the third quarter that ended June 30. The loss was a marked improvement from a $2 billion loss for the same quarter last year.

Its second quarter loss was $1.5 billion, down from $1.9 billion for the same period last year.

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Keith Clines can be reached at 256-340-2438 or Follow on Twitter @DD_KeithClines.

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