WASHINGTON - Top Federal Reserve officials last week got a first-hand picture of conditions endured by couriers who carry canceled checks for the Fed.

Eleven couriers working for Pony Express Courier Corp., a Charlotte,

N.C.-based company, met with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, Fed Governor Edward Kelly, and representatives from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to discuss the working, environment of couriers who play an integral part in the Fed's check-clearing process.

"We wanted to bring Mr. Greenspan first-hand accounts of the problems," said union spokesman Bart Naylor. "We feel that by moving it onto the plate of the nation's central banker, progress will be made. We think there's enough of it problem there that he needs to take action."

According to the Teamsters, couriers are forced to work long hours and without adequate health coverage. Pony Express does not maintain adequate security when checks and other bank documents are transported, the union said. Some Pony Express couriers left vehicles unlocked while making deliveries, the Teamsters said, and some bankers have been complaining of lost loan document deliveries.

In June, Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez requested that the Fed investigate both security problems and unfair labor practices at Pony Express. The Texas Democrat expressed concern over "poor oversight" of couriers' service contracts by Fed officials, and sought to ensure that the Fed was complying with the Services Contract Act.

Last month, the Teamsters started appealing, directly to bank, presidents to "use your influence as an important customer" and ask Pony Express to reform.

Some bank officers responded by writing letters or calling, Pony Express, while others stopped contracting with the courier, according to Teamsters spokeswoman Mary Lazarsky.

Joe Allen, a spokesperson for Pony Express, denied that the courier company is guilty of any wrongdoing, saying, that the union is trying to coerce the courier into a contract.

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