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Federal Employees News Digest : March 11, 2013
March 11, 2013 Vol. 62, No. 32 3 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com been hiring and that have been looking to cut funds elsewhere are in a different financial position than those who acted as if this would all go away." Kelley said that although early and severe cost-cutting at CBP and IRS may result in fewer furlough days through the sequester, but that generally such mea- sures, when carried out willy-nilly, have cost the government more money than they're worth---and have been counter- productive to accomplishing the agency mission. Equally important, she emphasized, is how damaging added cuts and furloughs will be for employees. A recent NTEU survey showed that many feds have had to borrow money to get through the pay freeze, and more expect to slide deeper into debt with even limited furloughs. Uneven effects "Some agencies have other places in their budget where they think they can cut, so not everything comes from employees," American Federation of Government Employees general counsel David Borer told FEND, echoing Kelley. "We've heard that basically it can go from seven full furlough days to 22 days. The plans for furloughs are uneven---but that's a function of how much other money they have in their budget, versus the amount they're being asked to cut." "We're still gathering the agency-by- agency information here, and negoti- ations [about implementation of fur- loughs] are still taking place at the local level," Borer continued, explaining that he had few specifics on AFGE-represented agencies at press time. "We're surveying our councils to see how it's going." Borer pointed to one other place the sequester is leading agencies to try to cut costs---overtime. But he insisted that slashing this cost, like the sequester itself, is unlikely to bring real savings long- term. "A lot of agencies are eliminating overtime---but in some cases that's real- ly going to be a problem," Borer told FEND. "For instance, with the Border Patrol, if you're in the middle of chasing down someone at the end of your shift, you don't just pull over and say, 'OK, I'm going home now,' you know? You finish what you're doing." "Across the government, there's a lot of this---what is called administratively unavoidable overtime, or AUO," Borer continued. "So, now the agency is saying it will eliminate this unavoidable over- time. I think there's a discussion to be had on this. It's easy to say you'll elimi- nate it, but people are doing overtime because the mission requires it." Steering the cuts Borer highlighted the importance of ongoing discussions with management that aim to reduce furlough days and cuts in essential overtime by helping to steer the search for savings elsewhere in the agency---including by steering some cuts to contractors. "We can't say: 'Thou shalt not do a furlough,' right?" Borer told FEND. "Agencies are allowed by law to do [that], so what we're trying to do is to negotiate exactly how it works, and what we can to make it impact fewer people and less drastically." "We have a lot of negotiations going on," he continued. "And we'll see some results, we hope, soon---and we're trying to steer the impact a little bit where we can, but the law ties our hands." Borer also told FEND that AFGE is consistently pushing for more balance in the cuts, so that cost savings are also are borne by contractors. "We have told peo- ple, you need to hold feet to the fire on contractors," he said. "Some of the early plans---like an early Navy plan where the civilian employees would take nine times the hit that contractors would---well, that doesn't seem right." "We're fighting it, but we are seeing that kind of thing across the agencies," Borer said. "Think about it: If they would spread the cuts evenly across employees and contractors, then it would be [per- haps] half as bad for feds suddenly--- and while we can't we directly negotiate that---we're trying to have that conversa- tion." On this front, Borer and the union cite the work of Charles Tiefer, a law profes- sor at the University of Baltimore who has catalogued the many---and mostly little known or used---ways in which the government is legally entitled to cut back on contractor fees through the sequester. "The contractors think they are sacro- sanct," Borer noted. "But Prof. Tiefer and others have shown that, legally, most of these contracts have plenty of out-clauses and provisions that allow them to be adjusted up or down." "It's just that the political will hasn't been there to make the contractor [take a hit] really," Borer said. "Far short of can- celing a contract and incurring a penalty, there is a lot agencies can do to throttle back on contractor spending. They don't in large part because of the lobbying clout of the contractor industry." Term, temp employees take hit Between 700,000 and 800,000 feds at the Defense Department could get hit with the much-publicized 22-day fur- lough through the end of the year, Cory Bythrow of NFFE notes. But another large group of workers at DOD---and elsewhere---who are already taking a big hit are the "term" and "temporary" employees. "A good example of [cuts] is at DOD--- and it's where before they start going about furloughing permanent employ- ees, they have been laying off in huge numbers 'term' employees and 'tempo- continued from page 1 Don’t miss our discussion of weekly news topics. Discuss these stories and more with your fellow federal workers at www.FederalSoup.com. continued on page 4
March 4, 2013
March 18, 2013