IRS cancels 1 furlough day

Tuesday - 7/16/2013, 4:49pm EDT

The Internal Revenue Service is canceling one of its planned furlough days.

In an email to staff obtained by Federal News Radio, acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel announced the agency is forgoing the scheduled furlough day on July 22.

Because of the short notice, the agency will permit unscheduled leave on that day, "and I am emphasizing to all managers that if their employees want to take leave on July 22, they should be allowed to do so," Werfel said in the note to staff.

"This step follows a lot of hard work across the service to cut costs," Werfel said in the email.

Included in those cost-cutting measures, according to the IRS, is Werfel's intention to eliminate employee bonuses this year, which will net the agency about $98 million in savings. Werfel has the authority to cancel performance awards for IRS managers and executives. However, the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS union workers, contends that bonuses for its members are required under its collective bargaining agreement with the agency.

IRS first announced in April it would furlough its entire nearly 90,000-person staff on five days, resulting in a virtual shutdown of the agency on those days.

Employees have already taken three forced days off without pay, including most recently on July 5.

The next planned furlough day is Aug. 30. Werfel said he would keep the IRS workforce informed as agency leadership determines whether it will need to furlough employees on that day.

The cancellation of the planned furlough day is a bit of an about-face for the agency. Earlier this month, IRS officials said one or two additional furlough days before the end of the fiscal year could be necessary. Werfel's email did not address the issue of extra furlough days.

NTEU President Colleen Kelley said the canceled furlough is a positive sign for employees.

"We have been encouraging the agency, and working with it, in an effort to find savings sufficient to allow it to cancel employee furloughs," Kelley said in a statement.

NTEU is pressing the agency to cancel the fifth and final furlough day as well, she said.

Negotiations between IRS officials and the union over employee-performance awards remain ongoing, but NTEU rejects the notion that canceling union-employee bonuses is necessary to avert further furloughs.

Across the government, hundreds of thousands of federal employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, and the departments of Defense, Labor and Interior have faced furloughs this year — a result of the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.

Forced time off without pay began last week for some 680,000 DoD civilians. All told, they will have to take 11 furlough days through Sept. 30.

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