Postal Service

David Williams of the U.S. Postal Service speaks during a news conference at the headquarters of USPS in Washington. (Alex Wong / Getty Images / December 5, 2011)

The U.S. Postal Service is seeking to slow down its delivery rate, the agency announced Monday, in an effort to help save $2.1 billion a year and fend off possible bankruptcy.

The proposed plan, which would go into effect next spring, would relax delivery standards for first-class mail, so that it would arrive within two to three business days, largely doing away with overnight delivery for stamped mail. The delivery delay would be a byproduct of the closure of 252 mail processing plants—more than half of the total, a change the Postal Service announced in September.

"The U.S. Postal Service must reduce its operating costs by $20 billion by 2015 in order to return to profitability," said David Williams, a USPS vice president, in a statement.

"The proposed changes to service standards will allow for significant consolidation of the postal network in terms of facilities, processing equipment, vehicles and employee workforce and will generate projected net annual savings of approximately $2.1 billion."

Approximately 28,000 employees would lose their jobs as a result of the closures. The spokeswoman for the mail carrier's union decried the move as one that would "hasten the demise of the postal service."

"This is precisely the wrong direction for the postal service," said Sally Davidow, spokeswoman for the American Postal Workers Union. "The postal service should be modernizing and improving its service for the American people so it can remain relevant in the digital age, not slowing service and making mail less relevant."

In the last five years, mail volume has declined by more than 43 billion pieces. The postal service's bottom line has suffered from the resulting loss of revenue; it is faced with a $14-billion budget shortfall next year. In response, the agency has proposed a series of cost reductions, including closing approximately 3,700 post offices. Officials have also considered ending Saturday delivery.

The changes must be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission, an independent agency that oversees the mail service's rates and operations.