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Federal Employees News Digest : Sep 16, 2013
September 16, 2013 Vol. 63, No. 9 3 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com efficiency impacts the economy; it’s also down to handling visitors bringing bottles of wine into international airports, and the impact that the perception has of our abil- ity---and inability---to manage them effec- tively. It's also about delays in places like the IRS to work on identity theft cases, tasks that are very important to the average middle- class American---but not to people who are just studying "other things," apparently. And, whatever these people study that they think are indicators of [low impact] from the sequester and furloughs, the fact is they're missing the point---that you have to talk to the frontline employees, who are [both] try- ing to do what the country needs them to do every day and meanwhile just trying to live paycheck to paycheck. It's offensive. Is bad publicity over the sequester and resulting furloughs---and the actual limi- tations in funds---also making it harder for agencies to hire the best candidates? Kelley: For starters, there are very few agencies that are hiring. Agencies have been cut severely---they're really not being fund- ed even for attrition hiring. Take the IRS for example. The IRS is processing more tax returns for more taxpayers than ever before---and is trying to implement even more complicated tax codes passed by Congress. But they have more than 10,000 fewer employees today, than two years ago. There are 89,000 employees at the IRS today. There's very little hiring going on. So, under these circumstances, there's not going to be a good litmus test on how the sequester has affected [the ability to attract the best people] for some time. What do you think about the impact of sequester and an apparent widening lack of respect---at least by some---for govern- ment work? Kelley: I think FY 2014 is going to be a critical year for agencies and for federal employees. Employees who are here today, and eligible to retire, who people have been [negatively] talking about for years, are just not going to want to stay, with nonstop attacks on them and the work that they do. Really these are attacks on their ability to just support themselves and their families. So, I think we are at very high risk of see- ing many more retirement-eligible retirees leaving. And without more funding, there will be no new hiring to backfill many very important positions. What about phased retirement? NTEU recently again praised phased retire- ment---which is now finally starting--- and requested alterations in the plans for implementation. Kelley: I think it's going to take some time. We have yet to see how agencies actually will implement it. NTEU fought for five years for its implementation. NTEU now has submit- ted comments on changes we think should be made to the options involved. And the mentoring issue is one of them. Going into phased retirement, the requirement that the [senior employee] spends 20 percent of their time on mentoring---the current plan---makes sense in a world where there are new hires coming in to be mentored! But for now, it's very limiting. It's not clear to me yet how agencies are going to embrace this, or to implement it both to benefit employees and not to harm the agencies. Sounds like you are concerned phased retirement could be used as a fig leaf, a false "solution" to the huge resource prob- lems agencies are facing? Kelley: Yes and no. Even without today's [negative] environment, I think we'd have questions about how quickly and positive- ly agencies implement this. Even in the best environment, that's something NTEU would be interested in---working with agen- cies to make sure it's something employees and agencies really can use. The current environment, of course, raises this question even more for me, about how to get the best implementation possible. Senator defends feds' due process rights A longtime supporter of federal whis- tleblower protections told the White House he is "extremely concerned" that a court decision last month appears to jeopardize federal employees' civil ser- vice due process rights. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), rank- ing member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to President Obama outlining his concerns over the Aug. 20 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the case of Kaplan v. Conyers. In that decision, the court held that the Merit Systems Protection Board cannot review the merits of Defense Department national security determi- nations concerning the eligibility of an employee to occupy a sensitive position. Opponents of that decision maintain it opens the way for agencies to suspend or remove an employee for any rea- son under the guise of national security, without due process protection for the employee. "By holding in DOD's favor, the majority in Kaplan strips several hun- dred thousand employees of rights under [Civil Service Reform Act] and the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) when an agency bases an adverse action on an eligibility determination," Grassley wrote. "In addition to automatically exempt- ing some employees from the provi- sions of the WPA, this decision will also have a chilling effect on other potential whistleblowers throughout the federal government," the letter stated. "Even if a federal employee's current position is not considered sensitive, an employee who blows the whistle will now fear that his or her position may be designated non-crit- ical sensitive as a means of retaliation." Grassley said that the Office of Special Counsel had noted that the decision could be extended to cover not only employees of DOD, but of also employ- ees of the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security. The three depart- ments together account for about half of the 2 million employees covered by the CSRA, OSC said. "Without clear rules preventing a suit- ability determination being made in 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
Sep 9, 2013
Sep 23, 2013