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Federal Employees News Digest : April 22, 2013
April 22, 2013 Vol. 62, No. 38 3 Visit us on the internet at www.FederalDaily.com and employees ask, 'Why spend on this right now while we're getting furloughed?'" Hale pointed to another major source of dropping morale: A growing sense that the furlough represents an unfair distribution of budget cuts. Originally, he said, some employees could accept that the cuts were necessary to close the budget deficit. But that has changed. "We're now being told---at the department level---that the furlough savings will be used to sustain programs and base operations, not to reduce the national deficit---it doesn't seem a fair purpose," Hale said. "This hasn't gone over well. It doesn't add up." "We understand there is a drawdown on the two wars," Hale told FEND. "That's a good thing. We'll take our hits there---we're glad not to see casualties on the six o'clock news. But to say you're doing what's really a tax hike on fed- eral employees only, and so you can roll it over to other purposes---not deficit reduction---this has nothing to do with the war effort, or the deficit reduction effort." Making matters even worse and more unfair, according to Hale, is that other DOD units have told top management that they can cut their furloughs significantly---as the Navy has---but the leadership has not yet approved it. "The command at Defense Logistics Agency has said they don't need the furlough [to save the targeted amount]," Hale told FEND. "But the Army still will not permit them to call off the furlough, as yet." And miscommunication also plagues DOD, Hale said, noting that the Army in most cases still has not issued formal notices directly to employees of the furloughs to come. "There's no official notification," he said. Most of the funds being used to reduce the furloughs is "hiring lag" money, according to Hale. That is, it's from funds appropriated by Congress for positions that are not being filled in most cases across DOD. He noted that that money will not be appropriated and will not be available to cushion the fur- loughs next year, if sequestration continues. "Unless Congress acts like adults" and passes a real budget, as Hale put it, the full force of furloughs can be expected to hit next year, he said. Labor ramps up efforts AFGE is the largest union representing DoD employees, and Hale says it is "pushing back." "We are lobbying Congress," he said. "We might get somewhere here. But no one is listening to our ideas for alternative cost sav- ings, unfortunately." "We are also reminding our members to call Congress, join our pickets and work toward stopping these furloughs," he said. The union is ramping up a new round of actions in protest of the furloughs, and has announced plans for informational picketing across the country on successive Wednesdays the week of April 22 through early May. Another large union representing DOD employees, the National Federation of Federal Employees, also has been pushing back on furloughs. The union organized an April 3 protest rally among 600-plus DOD workers and their supporters at the Army's Watervliet Arsenal facility in Troy, N.Y. "Communities around DOD installations are among the first to be badly hit by the furloughs," Hale said. "Even now ... just [with] the fact that employees don't know yet what's going on---people are going out to lunch less often, buying fewer things---those communi- ties are already being hurt. A lot of these work- ers are paid not much above poverty level. The cuts are felt right away." Union urges creation of FEHB advisory panel A union official this month called for the creation of an employee advisory panel that would give federal workers the opportunity to provide input on decisions affecting the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. In testimony April 11 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, American Federation of Government Employees Public Policy Director Jacqueline Simon criticized a number of administration proposals for altering aspects of the FEHB--- and called for formation of an FEHB adviso- ry council modeled on the Employee Thrift Advisory Council for the Thrift Savings Plan, the Federal Salary Council for the General Schedule and other similar bodies. "Our members currently pay an average of 30 percent of FEHBP premiums, in addi- tion to sometimes substantial out-of-pocket deductibles and copayments," Simon said in her testimony. "In some plans (New Jersey's and Delaware's Aetna Open Access Plans), the employee's share of the premium is 64 percent. Yet despite shouldering this tremen- dous financial burden, we have neither access to information nor input into any decisions about expansions or contractions of benefits, changes in administration, or changes in program structure." "We're in the unenviable position of being expected to keep quiet and keep paying," she said. Some of the proposed changes the union objects to include charging more for federal employees who are ill or overweight, charging more to families with more than two persons, and according to her testimony, an Obamacare "time bomb provision, set to go off in 2018 that is likely to be very damaging to federal employ- ees," including a "40 percent excise tax on 'high cost' or 'Cadillac' plans that will make FEHBP far less affordable for many federal employees and retirees than it already is." She also decried proposals contained in the president's fiscal 2014 budget request. "The administration's FY14 budget piles on with additional cuts to retirement benefits for both CSRS and FERS employees hired before 2013," she said. "It is astounding that they would add more than $8 billion in cuts to FEHBP on top of this. The administration calls this 'modernization' of benefits; we call it cannibalization." "No federal employee can afford to pay any more than is absolutely necessary for health insurance, and there is certainly no justification for any more cost-shifting to fed- eral employees," she stated. "Unfortunately, all of OPM's proposals, except perhaps for one, would shift costs to enrollees without improving the program or lowering its over- all costs at all." See the testimony here: http://bit. ly/14egKZe. 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.
April 15, 2013
April 29, 2013