If the U.S. Postal Service cuts workers' hours, customer service will suffer and the mail will be delayed, says the president of a national postal workers union.

Not so, says the USPS in response to William Burris, president of the American Postal Workers Union.

"Our continuing effort to reduce cost has not hurt customer service," said Gerald McKiernan, manager of USPS media relations.

They are the two sides of a debate about the deficit-ridden postal service, and its recent problems in delivering mail service to the public in a timely fashion.

Today, postal officials will spell out their financial troubles before a Senate subcommittee on federal financial management, an oversight committee of the USPS, headed by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

Last year, the Postal Service lost $2.8 billion, even though it cut $2 billion in expenses. In the past four years, 100 million work hours have been eliminated.

But this year, USPS plans to cut 100 million work hours and still projects an even higher deficit than last year.

Postal officials hinted last February they may need a bailout due to the sagging economy.

Yet, the USPS Board of Governors gave Jack Potter, the postmaster general and chief executive officer, a performance bonus of $135,041, and other compensation that more than tripled his $263,575 annual salary.

Other top officers also received bonuses.

In a Jan. 7 column on the union's Web site, Burris blamed the $2.8 billion deficit on the decline in mail volume due to the nation's economic crisis. "Volume will not increase until the economy recovers," he added.

Burris credited local APWU president Gwen Ivey's "spirited fight to inform the public that smoke and mirrors do not deliver the mail; you need workers."

And he cited recent exposés by the Daily News about "acts of deception" by postal managers "to mask the delay of the mail and perhaps even cover up the destruction of mail."

McKiernan, who responded to Burris' column in a Jan. 16 letter, said "record high national service scores in 2008 for the delivery of first-class mail."

In an effort to stanch "bleeding red ink," Burris suggested raising postage for major mailers who now receive discounts for pre-sorting their mail, a program called "worksharing."

"As a result of this practice," said Burris, "large mailers rates are at the same rate as average Americans paid in 1995."

McKiernan defended workshare discounts:

"Mailers can earn postage discounts by barcoding and presorting mail and other mail preparation work that we normally do."

Worksharing "saves us processing costs and the savings are passed on to the customer," McKiernan said.

The program is for large volume customers and shipping consolidators.

Burris said that "Some members of Congress have questioned whether the USPS is in compliance with its own service standards."

New standards, such as how fast a First Class letter should arrive at its destination, are to be announced next month. *