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Unions aim to soften impact of cuts on workers

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 27, 2013 at 9:51 am •  Published: February 27, 2013

So far, Kelly's union has received only one official notice of intent to furlough workers. That came from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which plans to furlough all 60,000 employees for up to 14 days if the sequestration goes into effect. Kelly said other agencies are looking at furloughs but have not yet specified the cuts.

"We've reached out to agencies in an effort to work with them to find ways to cut spending so that the cuts don't come on the backs of employees on furlough days," she said.

The general expectation is that employees would serve one furlough day per two-week pay period. But the union can bargain on behalf of employees who may want to serve all the days together or delay them until later in the year for personal or financial reasons.

Negotiations can also resolve whether workers can swap furlough days with other employees, or whether some workers can volunteer to serve more furlough days so others don't have to. There also may be work deadlines to consider, since some workers remain accountable to complete projects even if they cannot be at work.

The federal Office of Personnel Management, which issues guidance on how agencies carry out furloughs, declined a request for comment. But in a memo to agencies, OPM states that government officials have duty to bargain "over any negotiable impact and implementation proposals" the union may submit regarding furloughs.

In a memo to Environmental Protection Agency employees late Tuesday, acting administrator Bob Perciasepe said the impact of 5 percent cuts at the agency could mean up to 13 furlough days for employees. To minimize the impact on employees, he said the agency is considering having workers take four furlough days by June 1, then reevaluating the budget.

Every agency must provide notice at least 30 days before any furlough process begins. The earliest furloughs could begin is April 1.

A few agencies have said they expect to avoid furloughs, including the Social Security Administration, Small Business Administration and Smithsonian Institution. The Veterans Affairs Department has been excluded from sequestration cuts.

"Agencies can be creative and agencies can be uncreative," Simon said. "Our position is, don't come to us because we're the easy target."


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