Unpaid overtime: The long commute

Monday - 3/12/2012, 2:00am EDT

Lots of people in and out of government put in voluntary unpaid overtime. That's a given. Many operations couldn't function without it. But when it's lengthy and mandatory for everybody it moves into a different category.

Security checks at federal-military installations are a fact of life. But when it's a 100 percent lockdown effort, it creates problems for lots of people who just want to get to and from work.

Every time the President, Vice President or other VIPs visit federal facilities (as they often do at the Bethesda Naval Hospital here), there are security lockdowns that delay employee arrivals and departures. They appreciate the thought behind the visits.

But this is not exclusively a Washington 'problem.' For example:

A major Naval facility in southern California is planning a security exercise that could make the daily horror show that D.C.-area feds face daily seem like a speedy exercise. While they understand the need for the exercise, some participants dread what promises to be a very long day. Here's what one hapless, long-time fed predicts:

We have a major base security exercise coming up. As part of this, our base will be locked down to having only one gate open with up to 100 percent vehicle searches. From past experience, this will result in hours of delay getting to work, and up to an hour to exit the base after work.

We have been told that the time we spend participating in this official security kabuki theater does not count as time on duty, and that we should take two days annual or other leave on Thursday and Friday or work from home if we can (most of us cannot). Essential personnel must still report for work and will have no choice but to spend hours in line to enter the base without this counting as time on duty. Administrative time off is not authorized ...

I have not decided whether to take annual leave or to reserve a room on base at the BOQ the Thursday night of the exercise so I can work on Friday without having to sit in line at the gate (unpaid) for hours.

As a result of this and other things going on at present, I have now decided that the Navy is taking its unspoken credo, 'Indecision is the key to flexibility' to a whole new level:

'Flexibility is too rigid. Be vaporous!!!'

Ah well, I have enough combined civilian-military time — 31 years in combined active duty military and federal civil service — and I can retire at any time..."

On the other hand:

Friday's column was all about the potential problems facing workers who retire this year. Those who do, will be put at the back of the line in a long queue that is getting longer because of buyouts, early retirements and a big spike in regular retirement applications. And the fact that Congress may create a year-end retirement stampede among feds, who won't be able to work in 2013. The column inspired one retirement-age fed to maybe get out before it gets worse. It fact, it drove him to pirate talk. He said:

Ah, yer not going to scare me off!
Me paperwork is in and I'm gettin' off this scurvy ship at the end of the month.
Congress can keep on diggin' holes in water and wondering why its not dry without me.

"I've enjoyed your columns (but not all the information) over the years. Thanks!" steve


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

The color pink may not exist — at least in nature. Pink is a combination of red and violet, which are found at opposite arcs of the rainbow (think ROYGBIV). As Time noted in a post, some scientists argue that because the red and violet wavelengths are unlikely to ever mix in the natural world, pink is a "made-up color."


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