Union Challenges HUD’s Planned Sequestration Furloughs, Closures

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A federal employee union is challenging the Housing and Urban Development Department’s plan to shut down for seven days and furlough all of its employees.

The union expected to begin negotiations with HUD officials on Tuesday, according to Eddie Eitches, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 222.

AFGE is seeking furlough day flexibility, reduced workload expectations, transit benefit assurance, and an arrangement to allow senior executives to donate voluntary furlough savings to ordinary feds, Eitches told Government Executive.

HUD was planning to furlough employees on “discontinuous days” in separate pay periods to “minimize hardship to employees,” the department’s acting Chief Human Capital Officer Karen Newton Cole said in a letter to Eitches dated Feb. 26.

The proposed furlough dates are May 10; May 24; June 14; July 5; July 22; Aug. 16; and Aug. 30, Cole wrote. “As a result, all HUD offices will be closed on the above listed dates and all full-time and part-time employees will be furloughed on those dates,” Cole wrote.

A HUD official on Monday reconfirmed the planned closures and furloughs, Federal Times reported.

In a letter sent to Cole on March 1, Eitches demanded that employees be given flexibility to schedule preferred furlough days.  He also said HUD needed to adjust its performance standards “in response to employees’ reduced ability to meet workload requirements.”

“Assuming our staffing levels do not have any surplus, HUD will not meet its workload unless the department expects employees to work more for less pay,” Eitches wrote.

In negotiations Tuesday, the union also aimed to protect the transit subsidy and discuss a proposal that has been floated to have members of the Senior Executive Service contribute funding from voluntary furlough days to lower-ranking employees.

According to AFGE, HUD faces $3.6 billion in cuts because of sequestration. Cole said that the 5 percent cut to salaries and expenses would amount to savings of $66.6 million by the end of fiscal 2013.

HUD spokesman Jerry Brown told Federal Times that the department held a town hall on Feb. 28 to discuss furlough plans. Earlier in February, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan told the Senate Appropriations Committee that his department was expecting furloughs. He also said that budget cuts would severely constrict HUD’s mission to help poorer communities and urban recovery. 

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