More than 150 postal workers at a demonstration Sunday in Melville demanded a new contract, criticized a plan to lower wages for new hires and called for the restoration of service cuts.

Postal clerks with the American Postal Workers Union on Long Island and nationwide have been working without a pact since May after negotiations broke down. A stumbling block, workers said, is a proposal by the U.S. Postal Service to create a new employment tier for new hires that would lower the starting wage to between $14 and $15 from $18, and reduce benefits including sick days, vacation days and cost-of-living adjustments.

"We can work out something to stop this race to the bottom," said John Dirzius, northeast regional coordinator for the APWU.

"The parties will continue to follow the current agreement until a new contract is reached through the dispute resolution process," Maureen P. Marion, a Postal Service spokeswoman, said, adding there is no timetable for when it will be resolved.

After negotiations broke down, the union and the postal service went into mediation and are now headed into arbitration, Dirzius said.

Many workers said that service cuts this year have delayed mail deliveries and are calling for them to be restored. Dirzius said the focus should be on improved service so that people continue to use the post office rather than seek alternatives. "We want to eliminate long lines at the post office," he said, adding, "What other business grows by reducing services?"

Another bone of contention is the use of the office supply store chain Staples Inc. to provide postal services.

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"We demand that our work not get subcontracted," Pete Furgiuele, president of the Long Island New York Area Local chapter of the APWU, said in a speech to the workers.

Workers also criticized a law passed in 2006 that requires the postal service to pre-fund its pension liabilities instead of using a pay-as-you-go method. The measure was intended to address unfunded future pension costs, but has increased current costs that add pressure to the postal service's budget.