The Four Day Week and You

Most members of Congress worked very hard this year, but a lot of the blood, sweat and tears they expended wasn’t expended here, doing the primary job they were elected to do: That is, oversee and fund government operations.

The bad news for you as a civil servant is that Congress has done nothing to help you out this year. The good news is it didn’t do anything to hurt you. Most appropriations bills required to fund operations in the fiscal year (which started last October 1st) are still waiting House and/or Senate action.

Items on the undone list include:

    • Congress has okayed a 3.5 percent military pay raise and has tentatively approved a similar increase for white (and blue collar) civil servants. The 3 percent already authorized by President Bush, however, will prevail unless the House and Senate approve their own version. Congress could take up legislation next year that would implement the higher (3.5 percent) raise. Or not. For the way it’s worked in the past, click here.

    • Legislation that would permit FERS employees to credit unused sick leave for retirement purposes isn’t going anywhere this year. Unlike CSRS employees — who can count unused sick leave toward their retirement computation time — FERS employees are under a use-it-or-lose-it system. Backers plan to push the bill in the next session of Congress which starts in January. The Federal Managers Association says the proposal is picking up traction.
    • Bills that would modify or eliminate the so-called ‘Evil Twins’ will also carry over into the next sessions. The twins are the Windall (WEP) and Offset (GPO) formulas. Windfall reduces the amount of a Social Security benefit earned by CSRS employees unless they’ve paid into Social Security for a full career. WEP can wipe out the spousal or survivor Social Security benefit anticipated by the wife/husband of someone who gets a Social Security check. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees says the trick next year is to round up “lapsed” members of Congress who supported WEP/GPO reform in the past, but who haven’t signed on this year as cosponsors.

    So lots of luck in 2008!

    By the way, the tentative schedule published by the House calls for a majority of 4-day workweeks next year, although three weeks have been committed to honest-to-gosh Monday through Friday working sessions.

    Back-To-Back Paid Holidays!!!

    I get the Ebenezer Scrooge Award for 2007 for saying that nonpostal feds required to work on December 24th would not get holiday pay for their efforts. Dozens of sharp-eyed readers pointed out that the Executive Order issued by President Bush does provide for holiday pay for Christmas eve toilers.

    In fact it says:

    “Most employees who are excused from duty on December 24th will receive the basic pay they would have received if no Executive Order had been issued. An employee who was previously scheduled to take annual leave on December 24th will not be charged annual leave (or any other form of paid leave, compensatory time off, or credit hours). (This policy does not apply to employees who receive annual premium pay for standby duty under 5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(1) or to firefighters who are covered by the special pay provisions of 5 U.S.C. 5545b.) An employee who is required to work non-overtime hours on December 24th is entitled to holiday premium pay under 5 U.S.C. 5546(b)[i]

    Normally when feds get a pre-or-post Christmas day off it is with the understanding that emergency employees who must work don’t get holiday pay. This is only the second time, I think, in recent years that holiday pay has been authorized for most of those who work.

    The order doesn’t cover the U.S. Postal Service, legislative branch employees and those who work for the federal courts. But most congressional offices are likely to let people off on Monday the 24th. The practice varies from court to court. Some will be open for business that day, others won’t.

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