By Melissa Dawkins
Special to Federal News Radio
With more than 100,000 federal employees on furlough this Friday, a major employee union is taking one of those agencies to task, and another agency is reassessing the necessity of future scheduled unpaid leave for its workers.
Friday is the fourth of seven scheduled furlough days for the 9,300 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) employees. Additionally, workers at the IRS, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will be furloughed July 5.
HUD, union enter arbitration over furloughs
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The union representing HUD employees is trying to make sure this is the last furlough day.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and HUD will enter into arbitration in August. AFGE filed a grievance in May seeking to stop the remaining furlough days and repay employees for wages lost.
“We believe HUD has not cut expenses in the appropriate places,” said Eddie Eitches, president of AFGE Local 476.
Jereon Brown, HUD deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, said AFGE and the agency will discuss several issues including the timing of HUD’s office closures and the relocation of employees.
Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) instructed employees not to take a furlough day this Friday, and asked them not to take any furlough days in July until further notice, Christine Nazer, an EEOC spokeswoman, said in an email.
“We understand that the furloughs caused by the sequester have been difficult for EEOC employees and their families, and will continue to do our utmost to avoid further furloughs,” EEOC chief operating officer Claudia Withers said in a statement.
EEOC undecided about future furlough
EEOC is assessing whether to implement more furloughs. All 2,194 EEOC employees took five required days during the first phase of furloughs — from April 22 to July 2, according to Nazer.
Roughly 90,000 IRS employees will experience their third of five furlough days Friday. The IRS, however, may announce one or two additional furlough days in addition to the scheduled five, according to an IRS release on July 3.
The IRS said it will close nearly 400 taxpayer assistance centers nationwide as well as all agency offices, toll-free hotlines and the Taxpayer Advocate Service on Friday.
Joining the IRS, HUD and other federal employees on unpaid leave are 17,000 EPA workers.
During the first phase of furloughs, EPA employees took 32 unpaid hours off, including a designated furlough day on May 24. Friday is the first mandatory furlough day of the second phase, which requires employees take 23 additional furlough hours.
An Office of Management and Budget (OMB) spokesperson said the majority of OMB will be on furlough this Friday as well.
Roughly 480 OMB employees are required to take 10 furlough days between April 21 and Sept. 30.
DoD furloughs to begin Monday
While no civilian Defense Department employees are furloughed today, furloughs there will begin July 8.
Civilian DoD employees must take one furlough day per week for 11 weeks until Sept. 30, according to a July 2 press release.
Employee unions and other groups are pushing for DoD to stop the civilian furloughs.
The Federal Workers Alliance, representing 300,000 federal employees, launched a campaign that sent more than 2,200 letters in two days to nearly 300 congressional offices in an effort to halt the furloughs, according to a July 3 press release.
“No one wants to see these furloughs happen — not the Defense leadership, not the workforce, not even a number of elected officials, but they are still happening,” FWA chairman William Dougan said in a release. “We are less than a week away from intentionally undermining our military readiness and the livelihoods of the employees that maintain it. We are a week away from subverting our nation’s economic recovery by taking the legs out from under small communities across the country. This is an infinitely preventable problem and thousands of dedicated federal workers are calling for a solution.”
Employees of other agencies are not required to take a furlough day this Friday.
While Friday is not a required furlough day for the Department of Labor, some employees chose to take a furlough day on Friday, according to a Labor spokesman Stephen Barr. Labor is open Friday under normal operating business hours.
More than 4,000 Labor employees have received furlough notices. The department does not have mandatory furlough days; instead employees and supervisors schedule furlough days, Barr said.
Employees at the Interior Department and the Department of Transportation will not be furloughed on Friday.
In fact, DoT announced May 10 that the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 lets the Federal Aviation Administration transfer sufficient funds to end employee furloughs, altogether.
Melissa Dawkins is an intern for Federal News Radio