Painful Furloughs Divide Federal Workers

Friday, 29 Mar 2013 11:42 AM

By Melanie Batley

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In less than three weeks, more than 1 million federal employees will feel the pain of the sequester, as federally enforced furloughs begin to take full effect.

But not every government worker will feel the pain equally, according to The Washington Post, and some employees won't feel it at all, depending on how the various departments of government implement the automatic cuts that began on March 1. As a result, tensions and anger among government workers appears to be running high as some employees fare better with the cuts than others.

"Do you want to know why we're upset?" asked Betsey Brannen, who works at the library at Fort Bragg, N.C. "We've supported our president through thick and thin. We watch the White House and Congress go back and forth on the budget. And then we are told to prepare furloughs," she told The Washington Post.

A sampling of federal agency decisions on how to manage the furloughs illustrates the scattergun approach. While the Department of Housing and Urban Development will shut down for seven days starting in May to trim its budget, the Pentagon will institute 14-day nonpay furloughs. The Labor Department, meanwhile, will vary the furloughs for its divisions, with some employees having to take more time off than others.

And some agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Wage and Hour Division, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, have managed to sidestep the furloughs altogether, according to the Post. The Justice Department also announced last Friday that more than 3,500 prison staffers were off the hook, too, and would not have to take any unpaid leave.

Meanwhile, thousands of other federal employees are still in limbo as their departments or agencies continue to negotiate with unions over the number of unpaid days workers will be forced to take.

"I think the only ones who might be happy about this are employees who have used their leave for family or personal reasons and need more time off," Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told the Post.

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