Bridging the IRS RIF Gap

A federal mediation panel has set a March 21 deadline for the IRS and the National Treasury Employees Union to resolve disputes over the pending layoff of more than 1,600 IRS employees.

The Federal Service Impasses Panel announced the deadline in a letter dated Feb. 14, notifying the IRS and NTEU that if a resolution is not reached by the March 21 deadline, the panel will impose one. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will oversee the talks.

The disputes focus on NTEU's involvement in reduction-in-force (RIF) planning and on the timing of IRS's layoff notifications.

While IRS says NTEU has been involved throughout the process of planning layoffs, the union argues that IRS officials have not shared information about their plans. The two parties have about 40 unresolved issues surrounding the proposed RIF, NTEU says.

Congress instructed the IRS to send a report to Capitol Hill by March 1 justifying and explaining the agency's layoff plan after the union said the IRS's plan was not cost-effective because the agency planned to hire new workers while laying off present employees.

NTEU filed suit in November to stop IRS from sending RIF notices to employees in January, arguing that the agency must wait until after Congress reviews its report to begin the RIF process. A federal judge dismissed the suit. IRS brought the Federal Service Impasses Panel in a month later.

An IRS spokeswoman said the agency will have its report into Congress by March 1. Some proposals in the RIF plan may be affected by buyout procedures, which will be completed by February 28. IRS employees had until several weeks ago to apply for buyouts. Those who applied must either accept or reject a buyout by the end of the month, the IRS said.

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