Union Calls on Pentagon to Eliminate Furloughs

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. AFGE

A large federal employee union is calling on the Defense Department to completely eliminate furloughs for its civilian employees.

In a statement released Friday, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said he was “encouraged to hear” that the Pentagon was beginning to reconsider the prospect of civilian furloughs.  He said leaders in the military services “should be allowed to exercise” budget flexibility to reduce or eliminate the possibility of furloughs entirely.

"Forcing all employees off the job without pay for the same number of days out of some misguided notion of fairness is damaging to employees and undermines mission,” Cox said.

Defense originally said that it would be forced to furlough civilian employees for 22 days because of across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration. In late-March, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the stopgap spending measure funding the government through the end of fiscal 2013 gave the Pentagon enough flexibility to cut the number of furlough days to 14.

An Associated Press report from Thursday said Defense leaders were in discussions to further reduce the number of furlough days for employees. The Navy especially has been adamant about completely eliminating furloughs for its employees, because it says that the short-term savings from furloughs would be overshadowed by higher costs in the long term. On Wednesday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy emphasized that furloughs would “have a dramatic impact” on the service’s equipment and readiness.

Other defense agencies have also begun canceling furloughs for their employees. According to a memo from Department of Defense Education Activity Director Marilee Fitzgerald to agency employees on Thursday -- and obtained by the Huffington Post -- teachers working at Defense’s schools will not be furloughed for the remainder of the school year.

Still, Defense spokeswoman Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde told Government Executive on Thursday that furloughs were going to be implemented “with consistency across the department.”

AFGE Defense Conference Chairman Don Hale said that the “game” the Pentagon is playing with the “lives and livelihood of civilian employees is a travesty.”

Hale added, "DoD has continuously said that they want to minimize the adverse impact that furloughs have on civilian employees, but what they are doing is having the opposite effect.”  

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