Customs and Border Employees Escape Furloughs

A Customs and Border Protection officer walks through a line of cars at a crossing from Canada near Blaine, Wash. A Customs and Border Protection officer walks through a line of cars at a crossing from Canada near Blaine, Wash. Elaine Thompson/AP file photo

Customs and border employees will not be furloughed in fiscal 2013.

Congressional appropriators approved a request from the Customs and Border Protection agency to transfer money within its budget to avoid furloughing employees through Sept. 30 because of sequestration. CBP employees initially faced 14 furlough days in fiscal 2013.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents more than 20,000 CBP workers, called the furlough reprieve a “welcome” development but emphasized that it only affects fiscal 2013 and agency still faces budgetary constraints because of the automatic spending cuts. “Sequestration, which is the underpinning for all manner of problems for federal agencies, is scheduled to continue until 2021,” Kelley said in a statement. “And even with the decision not to furlough employees, CBP remains particularly hard-hit by the sequester.”

The agency, which is part of the Homeland Security Department, still plans to continue a hiring freeze for non-frontline personnel and forgo certain bonuses, according to a May 17 memorandum to employees from CBP’s Acting Commissioner Thomas Winkowski. CBP also will keep in place limited reductions in overtime. “While these reductions are not without significance and will continue to impact our mission, they are preferable to the personal hardships and operational impact of incurring furloughs at this point in the fiscal year,” wrote Winkowski wrote in the message.

Kelley said NTEU would continue its efforts to end sequestration and ensure CBP has “sufficient resources” to perform its mission.

The agency in April announced that it would postpone furloughs at that time. CBP had originally planned to furlough all 60,000 members of its workforce because of the sequester, but the agency received flexibility from the continuing resolution that President Obama enacted at the end of March.

Other employees who have escaped unpaid leave in fiscal 2013 include workers at the departments of Agriculture, Education and Justice and the Federal Aviation Administration.

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