With a new electronic sorter in Frederick, Md., that ships incoming mail to Hagerstown each day, mail carriers said they must shuffle between three separate bundles of mail for each residence before they embark on their unfamiliar routes.
"The new system is going to be efficient in the building," said carrier Donna Finafrock. "But when you get out in the elements, and you're stumbling around, thumbing through mail, it's not cost-effective because you're spending more time on the streets."
Several mail carriers reported returning to the post office at or later than 7 p.m., meaning that mail hasn't been delivered to some businesses before they close for the day.
"In my opinion, the routes are overburdened," said carrier Tonya Detrick. "In the long run, I hope it's good, but I don't see it happening."
Post office officials claim that while the going is tough now, the the changes eventually will result in increased efficiency.
"It's obviously frustrating to have everything changed so dramatically, so suddenly. It's a learning process," said Postmaster Robert Gingell.
Although union officials said the changes have eliminated six part-time positions, Gingell said he hasn't heard of anyone losing their jobs.
"It's still way too early to tell. If it happens, it's not going to be a matter of laying people off, it will be a matter of not replacing people," he said.
"I know they're trying to save money. We're all for keeping the business alive - it's our bread and butter. But they forget we're human beings. It just takes a little bit of consideration for what we're doing," Finafrock said.
The mail carriers union has filed five grievances against management in reference to the adjusted routes, citing unorganized planning, inaccurately labeled cases and illegally posted notices, among others, said Alan Strasburg, union steward.
"They forced this situation on us without any input from their employees," he said. "When the employees stepped forward to offer advice and suggestions, the management refused to adopt those, and it resulted in a very inefficient transition."