Buyouts: Show Me The Money!

Wednesday - 8/8/2012, 2:00am EDT

Have you reached the tipping point?

If your agency offered you $25,000 (or even $15,000) to take regular or early retirement, would you do it? Could you do it?

Lots of people in a dozen agencies say show-me-the-money!

Talks with and emails from hundreds of feds this year indicate that a lot of people are so fed up with the political situation that they would bail out in a heartbeat if their agency offered them a buyout. Buyouts in most federal agencies are $25,000 before deductions. A lot less after federal, state and local taxes. But still, it's something.

The U.S. Postal Service last year offered $20,000 buyouts in two annual payments to employees. This year it offered members of the Mail Handlers Union $15,000. It is still talking (make that arguing) with the American Postal Workers Union over a variety of contract issues.

Since buyouts were introduced during the Clinton administration, most offers have been designed to get employees off the payroll early in the fiscal year. That means October, November and December to get the biggest bang for the agency's salary buck. Things have been a little different both in 2011 and this year with buyout offers or deadlines much later in the fiscal year. The Air Force, for example, wanted to eliminate about 6,000 civilian jobs. The deadline to separate is Aug. 31.

GSA targeted more than 1,000 workers in its second round of buyouts. Deadline for leaving is Sept. 30. The Department of Veterans Affairs got the green light to offer more than 800 buyouts to people in its regional healthcare networks. Their deadline for leaving is September 30, the last day of the current fiscal year.

The deputy HR chief at one agency said "it's true that typically we offer buyouts early in the fiscal year...but this has hardly been a normal year what with budget uncertainty and the very real threat of sequestration." She said some agencies decided to "clear the decks" before being hammered by Congress.

Over the years numbers-crunchers have found that while lots of feds say they are waiting for a buyout, relatively few eligibles take one when offered. Early-retirement is rarely taken unless accompanied with a buyout.

This year may be different. Feds have been mentally hammered for the last two years. The White House froze federal pay for two years, and it has proposed raising employee retirement contributions by 1.2 percent. Congress (namely the House) has been even tougher. There are proposals in the House to increase those contributions by 5 percentage points. And also to eliminate the Social Security supplement for early retirees under the FERS system. Such a change would cost some future early retirees tens of thousands of dollars.

An IRS employee with 30 plus years of service said that even with a buyout, he and many colleagues are planning on staying. "Congress is deflecting public opinion over its non-performance by bashing the bureaucrats. It isn't fair and it isn't fun. But when you take a look at the grim job prospects outside of government I've adopted the motto: THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES!"

Check out Federal News Radio's Buyout Guide for a list of agencies offering buyouts and early retirements.


Your Turn

On the Border...Ever been on a horse, in Jeep or a helicopter patrolling the U.S.- Mexican border? Neither have I but today we can ride along and find out what the Border Patrol does, and how it does it. George McCubbin, head of AFGE's National Border Patrol Council is our guest at 10 a.m. today on our Your Turn show. He'll talk about how people join that particular federal service. Listen if you can. Should be a fascinating insight into one of Uncle Sam's many unusual but vital operations.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

OMG. First use was 1917?!

That's right. The keepers of the English language at the Oxford English Dictionary report in its OMG entry that the now ubiquitous digital shorthand for "Oh My God!" was first used in a letter to Winston Churchill during World War I.

Read more OMG uses detailed in the dictionary entry or view a version of the letter from Churchill's most senior Admiral, Lord Fisher here


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