Feds feel betrayed by OPM response to Metro shutdown

Federal employees caught up in Wednesday’s unprecedented Metrorail shutdown have taken the Office of Personnel Management to task yet again over its controversial operating status decision.

Government workers on social media pilloried OPM over its 6 p.m. decision last night to offer unscheduled leave or telework on March 16, due to the sudden 29-hour shutdown announced by Paul Wiedefeld, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s new general manager.

It is truly unfortunate that OPM has chosen not to close the government when tens of thousands of federal employees rely on Metrorail to go to work and do not have telework options available or other means of transportation,” Facebook user Sarah Zaffina said in response to the agency’s operating status announcement.”This is especially true when traffic is usually congested and alternate forms of transportation will force more even more people on the road.”

Frustrated commuters blamed OPM for overloaded public transit early in the morning, including long lines for buses, too many cars on the road, and exorbitant surge pricing for ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft.

“So, where is everyone going to park? How are the roads going to hold up? Traffic to get to work? Multiply that by 5. Buses will be stuck in the same traffic as everyone else,” Facebook user Jeremy Synz told OPM.

Others commuting in the Washington metro region, however, observed that OPM’s recommendation for telework kept workers from crowding mass transit options.

Another bloc of comments took feds to task for complaining that OPM didn’t close the government over a problem that affects a wide swath, but not all, of DC’s federal workforce.

“Not everyone in the gov’t is unable to get to work. It would be totally irresponsible — fiscally and morally — if the gov’t shut down completely when there are still thousands of people who can get to work and who can live up to their responsibilities as a government employee. There is still work to be done and there are people who can do their work,” Facebook user Kim Johnson said.

The American Federation on Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, said OPM should have authorized administrative leave to federal employees unable to report to work due to the Metro shutdown.

“Employees who rely on Metro to commute to work should not be forced to use personal leave because of Metro’s decision to close its doors,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement.  “While many employees are able to work from home, that’s not an option for most federal and D.C. government employees. That’s especially true for employees at the lower end of the pay scale.”

OPM took plenty of flak this winter for operating status decisions that feds complained were made too late the night before.

Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert also urged federal employees to arrange telework agreements during Pope Francis’ visit to the city in September, and during the Nuclear Security Summit that will take place downtown at the end of March.

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