WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Outgoing Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said on Tuesday the financially beleaguered U.S. Postal Service can be profitable if it can overcome healthcare burdens and pursue innovations such as grocery delivery.
Donahoe, who is leaving the job on Feb. 1, said the service needs greater control of its workforce and more flexibility in pricing and developing new products.
The Postal Service has been losing billions of dollars for years, including $5.5 billion in fiscal 2014, despite cutbacks in the workforce, consolidation of facilities and other cost-cutting moves.
"Congress needs to look at the Postal Service as a business that is going to be a lot different in the coming years and it should view this as a positive, desirable outcome," Donahoe said in a speech at the National Press Club.
He said the service could be profitable if it changes its business model and cited its experiments with same-day delivery of packages and grocery deliveries as forward-looking tactics.
"There's plenty of interesting opportunities going on, we think, from the standpoint of delivery, many different things," Donahoe said. "The grocery business could be a multi-million-dollar business from our perspective ... You can't limit yourself to what you're doing now."
Donahoe said the Postal Service had been hamstrung by a congressional mandate that led to default by requiring it to pay decades ahead on healthcare benefits for future retirees, as well as by union opposition to deals with retailers. The use of email and electronic bill-paying have undercut the use of the Postal Service.
The boon of online shopping has been a bright spot with the delivery of more than 28 million packages on Dec. 22, a one-day record, the Postal Service said.
Donahoe, who began working for the service as clerk in Pittsburgh in 1975 and has been postmaster general for four years, will be succeeded by Megan Brennan, a former mail carrier and now the service's chief operating officer. She will be the first woman postmaster general.
(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by David Gregorio)