Union: EPA plans agencywide furlough days under sequestration

Thursday - 2/21/2013, 5:36pm EST

If sequestration goes into effect, the Environmental Protection Agency is planning at least three agencywide mandatory furlough days that would essentially result in a temporary shutdown of the agency, according to union officials briefed on the plans.

The across-the-board budget cuts — which will slash all civilian agency budgets by about 5 percent — are slated to kick in next week.

EPA will implement employee furloughs in two phases, according to John J. O'Grady, the president of AFGE Local 704, which covers the Chicago region.

The first phase will run from April 21 to June 15. During that time, employees will be required to take 32 furlough hours spanning four pay periods (including a mandatory agencywide furlough day on May 24). That's roughly one furlough day every two weeks.

EPA will encourage liberal use of leave without pay and will tighten spending on travel and supplies to reduce costs during that time.

The second phase will begin July 1 and run through the remainder of the fiscal year, according to the union. There will be two agencywide mandatory furlough days — July 5 and Aug. 30. However, EPA is holding off on detailing exactly how many furlough hours it will implement in the second phase.

However, an EPA spokeswoman said talks with union officials are still in progress.

"Senior Environmental Protection Agency officials have engaged union leadership this week in discussions of the scope and timing of furloughs that will be required to meet the across-the-board cuts mandated by sequestration," the spokeswoman said in a emailed statement to Federal News Radio. "These talks are ongoing and no final decisions have been made."

As described by the union, EPA's sequestration-furlough plan is quite different than the temporary workforce reductions being planned by the Defense Department. Pentagon officials say DoD civilian workers will be furloughed on a one-day-per-week basis beginning in April and running through the end of the fiscal year. That will amount to about 22 total furlough days.

DoD has not announced any plans for departmentwide furloughs on specific days.

In contrast to the Pentagon, most civilian agencies have been relatively tight-lipped about their sequestration plans, which has drawn the ire of some federal-employee unions.

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