Labor Department Sends 4,700 Furlough Notices

Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris U.S. Labor Department

Labor Department officials on March 5 sent 4,700 employees furlough notices to help manage across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration, according to Federal Times.

Labor Department spokesman Steve Barr told Federal Times that employees would be furloughed an average of six days by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, with the days spread out to about one per month. He told Federal Times that the department was trying to prevent furloughs from hitting field employees and creating downtime at “mission critical” programs. Barr also said officials were looking to find more “efficiencies and economies” to help possibly cancel some of the furloughs.

American Federation of Government Employees Local 12 President Alex Bastani told Government Executive in an email that the proposed furlough days ranged from 10 days at the Veterans’ Employment and Training Services to two days at the Office of the Solicitor.  He said that the furloughs would have a “devastating impact” on the Labor Department’s mission, and noted that many agencies including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration do not have enough inspectors to “ensure the safety of the American worker” during sequestration. 

“Our members are particularly upset that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is going forward with a million dollar renovation of their offices and continuing to hire new employees despite the fact that the employees in OFCCP are facing furloughs,” Bastani said.

The Labor Department did not respond to Government Executive's requests for a comment.

Labor is expected to cut $2.2 billion in spending in fiscal 2013, according to the American Federation of Government Employees. Acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris told employees in February that the department would try to “soften the impact” of sequestration by cutting travel and training expenses, but would need to resort to furloughs to find additional savings. 

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