Friday, March 1, 2013

AFGE Week in Review - March 1, 2013

March 1, 2013
Agencies Directed Not to Replace Federal Employees with Contractors during Hiring Freezes. They Should Consider How Current Contracts Can be Cut: As federal agencies are expected to be severely understaffed due to furloughs and hiring freezes under the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, AFGE is pleased that, after repeated requests from us, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) this week issued guidance reminding agencies not to use contractors to fill in for federal employees, enforcing longstanding prohibitions against direct conversions of federal jobs to contractors. OMB’s February 27 guidance also discourages agencies from entering into new contracts or options unless they can be justified. Using the methods recommended by Professor Charles Tiefer who spoke at the recent AFGE legislative conference, agencies are encouraged to cut back or terminate current contracts that are no longer affordable within their fiscal 2013 budgets if they have no other options to reduce costs.
Despite the new guidance, agencies still have more freedom to enter into contracts than to hire federal employees in order to perform new work. This means that agencies often will outsource new work, even when it can be performed more efficiently in-house or includes functions too sensitive to privatize. AFGE believes OMB should set savings goals for agencies to achieve in reducing spending on current service contracts so that contracting officers can overcome the inevitable resistance from entrenched and connected service contractors. Agencies, particularly the Defense Department, must finally begin imposing sequestration sacrifices on service contractors.
AFGE is urging our Locals and Councils to go to management and press them to cut back on current contracts and to not go forward with new ones unless really justified. Without our involvement, they will ignore this important guidance and will target us for savings.AFGE Pushes Agencies to Find Savings from Sources Other Than Furloughs: AFGE is calling on federal agencies to be creative in finding savings through sources other than federal employees if they need to satisfy these reckless sequestration cuts that are scheduled to take effect March 1.
"Our position is that the Department of Defense and every other agency actually has a lot more discretion than they're letting on and that furloughs are entirely unnecessary. There's certainly plenty of low-paid federal employees for whom a 20 percent pay cut means they will not be able to pay their bills," said AFGE Public Policy Director Jacque Simon. "Agencies can be creative and agencies can be uncreative. Our position is, don't come to us because we're the easy target."

And Here’s Exhibit A: The Army Wants to Furlough 9 Civilians for Each Contractor: According to a newly released state-by-state analysis of its sequestration implementation plans, the Army wants to furlough nine civilian employees for every one contractor position, forcing unpaid leave on hundreds of thousands of federal employees across the country and leaving the Army’s much larger and costlier contractor workforce relatively untouched. This outrageously unfair and disproportionate ratio is far worse in states with the highest concentrations of military installations, such as Alabama, California, Kentucky, Maryland, and Virginia. Seventeen states have a ratio of 19 or 20 to one.

“Contractors have waged a mis-information campaign to make agencies believe that no savings can be taken from already-signed contracts,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “The Army plan suggests that agencies are falling for this nonsense. The fact is, 90% of all required cuts can easily come from service contracts.”

Agencies that Plan to Avoid Furloughs: The following agencies said they can reduce the budget in other areas and don’t have to force unpaid leave on their employees: The Government Accountability Office, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Small Business Administration, Smithsonian Institution, and the Social Security Administration.
Even though these agencies don’t expect furloughs, there will be cuts that are just as bad and will affect the services they provide to Americans. SSA, for example, will have to fire more than 1,500 temporary employees and leave unfilled more than 5,000 positions as employees retire. It will take half a year to process each new disability claim, up from 111 days currently.

See the list of agency memos on the impact of sequestration here.
But If Your Agency Insists on the Furlough, Try to Soften the Blow: There are a few things you can do:
  • Check your collective bargaining agreement. The union has the right to bargain over the impact and implementation of the furloughs. If the collective bargaining agreement is silent, we can negotiate whatever we want concerning impact and implementation.
  • Bargain on how the furlough is implemented. For example, request that employees be allowed to choose their own furlough days. Workers should be allowed to volunteer to take on more furlough days so those who can’t afford it don’t have to.
  • Adverse action procedures must be followed. Furloughs of up to 30 days are considered adverse actions even though they are not based on the employee’s own conduct.
  • RIF procedures must be followed for furloughs of 22 or more work days. Usually, furloughs that are longer than 30 days are a reduction in force (RIF). But the term “day” refers to calendar days, so the Office of Personnel Management has interpreted the regulation to mean that RIF procedures are required for unpaid leave of 22 or more work days, whether those days are consecutive or not.
  • If the furlough exceeds 22 work days, seek information on the grounds of “particularized need” and establish your agency’s budgetary options including alternatives to furloughs. See if the furlough unfairly falls on the federal workforce and not the contract workforce.
Sequestration May Not Produce Savings: Congress hopes to achieve $85 billion in savings this fiscal year by slashing agency budgets. But will the cuts, which will hurt everyone in the country one way or another, help reduce the deficit as advertised? Not really, according to new analysis by a think tank, the Center for American Progress (CAP). Not only won’t there be any savings but the government will lose money if the cuts are forced on agencies whose job is to bring in revenue or prevent wasteful payments by the government. Take the Defense Contract Audit Agency, for example. DCAA audits contracts and pricing proposals with the return on taxpayers’ investment of $5.80 for each dollar invested. Under sequestration, the agency will see a cut of $45 million for seven months, forcing its 5,000 auditors to stay home for a collective 110,000 days, which will translate into $315 million in government overpayment to contractors. The same is true for the IRS, which spends only 44 cents for every $100 it collects in taxes. The Patent and Trademark Office also generates more revenue than it spends.
“If agencies keep part of their workforce at home each day, the deficit will not be reduced. In fact, it will increase,” CAP senior fellow Scott Lilly wrote.

To Some Lawmakers, Releasing Illegal Immigrants Due to Budget Cuts Is More Outrageous than Cutting Funding for FEMA, FBI, Nuclear Labs: House lawmakers are outraged by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s decision to release hundreds of non-violent illegal immigrants from detention facilities due to budget cuts.

“This is very hard for me to believe that they can’t find cuts elsewhere in their agency,” House Speaker John Boehner said in an interview on CBS. “I frankly think this is outrageous. And I’m looking for more facts, but I can’t believe that they can’t find the kind of savings they need out of that department short of letting criminals go free.”

But Boehner and half of Congress are okay with 1,000 fewer law enforcement officers on the streets or the loss of 145 Justice Department attorneys who won’t be able to process thousands of criminal cases. They are okay with nuclear labs furloughing or firing thousands of employees across the country as a result of sequestration that they are pushing.

And this is just the beginning of the pain as…

Budget Cuts Will Make Prisons Even More Dangerous, BOP Officer Killed by Inmate: House lawmakers in their plush Washington offices claim the cuts should go forward as they won’t hurt anyone. Tell that to the family of Eric Williams, a 34-year-old correctional officer who was killed this week by an inmate at the high-security Canaan penitentiary in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of correctional officers have been attacked by dangerous inmates, and some have died simply because the prisons are understaffed. High-security facilities, for example, are overcrowded by 50%. Where is Boehner’s outrage? If sequestration takes effect on March 1, all 36,700 BOP employees will be furloughed for 12 days and BOP won’t be able to operate the four newly built prisons.

Rep. Norton to Donate Salary to Help Employees Affected by Sequestration: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton from Washington, D.C., this week announced she will donate her salary to match the highest number of furlough days by any federal agency. Her donations will be made through the Federal Employee Education & Assistance Fund, which, among other things, provides no-interest loans and grants to federal employees experiencing financial hardships. AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. praised the congresswoman.

“Many of our members have pointed out that while they are furloughed, the senators and representatives responsible for sequestration will continue to be paid at taxpayers’ expense,” he said. “Congresswoman Norton should be applauded for taking a stand against this sort of hypocrisy. If members of Congress refuse to do the right thing and stop sequestration, the least they can do is experience the same financial sacrifice they are placing on federal employees.”

AFL-CIO Calls on Congress, Administration to Repeal, Not Replace Sequestration: At the February meeting this week, the AFL-CIO Executive Council adopted a statement calling on Congress and the Obama administration to disarm the hostage-takers by repealing the economically destructive across-the-board cuts. The statement said sequestration should not be replaced with other cuts that will wreak havoc on the ailing economy. But if the cuts are to be replaced, the executive council called for closing tax loopholes for Wall Street and the wealthy 2% in order to minimize harm to the economy.

"[G]iving in to the ransom demands of the hostage-takers – and giving them political cover – will not put an end to these manufactured crises. On the contrary, it will only encourage more hostage-taking,” the statement said.

Watch AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. discuss the dangers of sequestration on CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello.

Watch AFGE General Counsel David Borer discuss sequestration on Fox5 Morning News. He also appeared on CBS local news, WUSA9 News.

AFGE Public Policy Director Jacque Simon to appear on C-SPAN to Discuss Sequestration: AFGE Public Policy Director Jacque Simon will be the featured guest on C-SPAN’s national call-in program, “Washington Journal,” on Monday, Mar. 4 from 7:45 am to 8:30 am. At this time she will be answering direct questions from viewers via phone calls, tweets, and emails about sequestration.
Here’s a furlough pay calculator released by Yokosuka Naval Base.

Here’s how furloughs affect your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account.

Please visit AFGE's Sequestration Central page for updates on all things sequestration.

Chuck Hagel Sworn in as Defense Secretary: Chuck Hagel was sworn in as Defense Secretary on Wednesday after he was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday. Hagel, who won two Purple Hearts in the Vietnam War, is the first Vietnam veteran to head the Pentagon.

If You Want to Attend BOP Correctional Officer Eric Williams’ Funeral: Calling Hours: Friday, March 1, 2013 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Greater Nanticoke Area High School, 425 Kosciuszko Street, Nanticoke, PA 18364.

Christian Funeral Mass: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 11 a.m. at St. Faustina Catholic Church 520 S. Hanover Street, Nanticoke, PA 18634.

Cards and letters may be sent to Donald & Jean Williams 12 South Walnut Street, Nanticoke, PA 18634. In lieu of flowers, the Williams family is requesting donations be sent to The Eric J. Williams Memorial Scholarship, which will be for the recognition of students in the greater Nanticoke area perusing a career in the field of Criminal Justice. We will provide an update once the information is received with regard to the actual bank and address.

This Week in Labor History: February 27, 1902 - Birth of John Steinbeck in Salinas, Calif. Steinbeck is best known for writing “The Grapes of Wrath,” which exposed the mistreatment of migrant farm workers during the Depression and led to some reforms.

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” as the union’s members speak out on the dangers of sequestration. The show, which originally aired on Friday, March 1, is now available on demand.
  • AFGE Housing and Urban Development Council 222 President Eddie Eitches detailed the devastating impact sequestration would have on formerly homeless, low income and disabled individuals and also discussed the council’s work with management to negotiate benefits for employees.
  • Joe Gonzales, president of Department of Defense Local 2142, then addressed sequestration’s effects on DOD, the civilian workforce and military.
  • AFGE Bureau of Prisons Local 1112 President Mike Schnobrich and Steward April Bennett discussed health services staffing concerns throughout BOP.
  • Transportation Security Administration Local 778 Executive Vice President Bobby Newsome provided a closer look at AFGE’s collective bargaining agreement with TSA and some of the contract’s top benefits for employees.
Quote of the Week: AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. appeared on CNN this week to discuss the reckless across-the-board cuts:

“It's very, very unfair what's happening with the sequestration. It's madness, it's a fabricated hoax, in my opinion, that needs to be stopped. Congress needs to return to Washington, pass a budget and move this country forward."

American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO 80 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 | Tel. (202) 737-8700 | Fax (202) 639-6492 |

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