The US Postal Service has negotiated an early retirement incentives plan with the American Postal Workers Union.
The deal will see full-time career employees offered a $15,000 payment over two years, with many of those accepting the incentive leaving at the end of January and February 2013.
Payments will be split with $10,000 provided in May next year, with a further $5,000 the year after.
About 115,000 employees are eligible for the offer, including clerks, mechanics and drivers. They have until December to decide on acceptance.
The union is expecting between 15,000 and 20,000 members to accept the offer.
Cliff Guffey, the APWU president, said the aim was to settle on an incentive for union members who were ready to end their careers, and ensure no groups of employees were excluded from the offer.
The struggling Postal Service is aiming to reduce the size of its workforce from around 570,000 people to as few as 400,000 over the next few years, taking advantage of retirements and looking for employees to leave voluntarily before considering reduction in force measures.
USPS has already reduced the size of its workforce by 244,000 positions since the year 2000.
The world’s largest postal service ended its financial year at the weekend, with prospects of recording an annual loss for the 12 months around the $15-16bn mark.
However, although it is battling a continuing slide in mail volumes, much of this year’s loss is on paper only, including billions of dollars that the Postal Service is required to pay the federal government to cover future retiree healthcare liabilities, but which USPS has refused to pay considering its current financial difficulties.
The downsizing of the USPS work force comes alongside a considerable shrinking of the Postal Service mail processing network, with 48 of 461 mail plants closed this summer, and plans for 92 more facilities to close in January and February.
Around 90 plants could also be closed in early 2014 depending on how USPS finances and volumes are shaping up by that time.
The plant closures should directly result in the loss of 28,000 positions, with the Postal Service stating its belief that the smaller network will save $2.1bn in operating costs, although it could also mean $500m in lost revenue related to the affected mail service standards.
USPS is continuing to push for legislative changes from Congress to restructure its healthcare and pension arrangements, and also to end Saturday deliveries as part of efforts to trim more than $22bn from its bottom line.