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Federal Employees News Digest : July 8, 2013
July 8, 2013 Vol. 62, No. 49 5 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com gized equipment. OSHA cited USPS for violations of OSHA electrical safety stan- dards, and had sought several million dollars in fines. Under the settlement, which covers all USPS facilities nationwide---including processing and distribution centers and post offices---USPS has revised its writ- ten policies and procedures on electri- cal work, now "prohibiting workers from working on electrically energized equip- ment except for a defined set of tasks that can only be performed while equipment is energized, such as troubleshooting and testing." The Postal Service also must assign an electrical work plan coordinator at each facility, and provide and require the use of electrically protective gloves and "full- body arc flash protection" for energized work such as voltage testing. The agree- ment also requires USPS to implement a national "safe-work" program, as well as to meet regularly with OSHA and APWU to discuss the results of OSHA inspections and USPS audits. "The APWU is pleased to be a part of this landmark commitment to worker safety, which will ensure the protection of postal workers from electrical hazards," APWU President Cliff Guffey said in a statement. According to OSHA, the Postal Service has agreed "to pay $100,000 at the signing and a suspended payment of $3 million pending full abatement of the hazards." To see more, go to: www.osha.gov/pls/ oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_ table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=24324. NASA unions urge extension of moratorium Two unions that represent NASA civilian workers urged the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to extend current protections that shield the agency's federal civilian workforce from reductions in force. International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers President Gregory Junemann and American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. made the request in a June 18 let- ter to Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). The unions, which represent about 10,000 NASA employees, are asking the committee to continue a current reduc- tion-in-force moratorium at the agency as part of the 2013 NASA authorization bill, and to extend the ban until 2016. The current RIF moratorium was put in place by the 2010 NASA authorization bill. "Because of the esoteric and complex nature of the expertise involved and the extended timelines of NASA missions, it is absolutely critical not to break the con- tinuity of NASA's core CS [civil service] competencies," the letter stated. "As the Columbia Accident Investigation Board pointed out, NASA's CS workforce needs both the techni- cal independence and long-term insti- tutional knowledge, protected through CS job security, to properly perform its oversight role over tens of thousands of support contractors. A primary cause of the Columbia accident was that the over- thinning of CS staff had caused NASA to lose the critical in-house knowledge it needed to fully understand and thus safely manage the Shuttle foam problem before the tragedy." The letter also criticized RIFs as a "a crude and imprecise instrument," and called them "an inappropriate tool for managing the minor workforce realign- ments needed to support NASA's evolv- ing mission." The unions also took aim at contrac- tors, noting that the agency's hybrid workforce already is "over-outsourced," with contractors accounting for more than two-thirds of NASA's on-or near-site workers. Moreover, the letter charged, "in the ugly zero-sum game of sequestration, the same corporations who have enjoyed taxpayer bailouts and subsidies are pres- suring the administration to destroy the NASA goose in order to harvest its golden eggs and fuel their quarterly profits, with no regard for the long-term health of NASA or for the sustained security and leadership of the nation." "We ask that you act to balance out those short-sighted private inter- ests and protect thousands of CS jobs in Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, California, the District of Columbia and Maryland as a smart investment in the long-term public good," the letter concluded. See the letter at: www.ifpte.org/down- loads/news/manager/306c.pdf. ••• In Brief Consumer agency orders refund of finance fees The Defense Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a settlement that will result in financial institutions paying finance fee refunds to about 50,000 military service members. In an enforcement action involving faulty auto loans, the CFPB ordered U.S. Bank and one of its nonbank partners, Dealers Financial Services, to return about $6.5 million to service members, according to CFPB Director Richard Cordray. The two companies created MILES---the Military Installment Loans and Educational Services program---to sell subprime auto loans to active-duty service members in communities near military bases. According to CFPB, MILES required service members to make payments via DOD's military discretionary payroll allotment system, but did not accurately disclose the finance charges, annual per- centage rate, payment schedule and total payments for the loans associated with the program. In a statement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the settlement was the result of collaboration among DOD leaders, the Judge Advocate General Corps and CFPB. Hagel on June 27 also announced that he has ordered DOD's comptroller to form an interagency team, which will include bank regulators and members of enforcement agencies, to examine the allotment system to determine if it needs changes to better protect service members. Hagel said he remained "concerned about the potential misuse of the allotment system by lenders." To see more, go to: www.defense.gov/ News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=120377, and www.defense.gov/News/NewsArticle. aspx?ID=120376. continued from page 4 continued on page 8
July 1, 2013
July 15, 2013