Attached (see below) you will find the official CBP notice to us about the steps it plans to deal with the pending sequestration. The most obvious impact on our members will be the potential 14 unpaid furlough days they may be required to take and the reduction of overtime. While I appreciate management’s assurance that every CBP employee, unit and non-unit alike, will suffer a furlough, I noticed that it stopped short of guaranteeing everyone will serve the same number of furlough days. That leaves the potential for management to propose as much as the full 14 furlough days on some employees, but substantially fewer on other employees.
NTEU has requested to negotiate and it is our expectation that management will delay implementing any scheduling cuts until that bargaining is complete. I will send you a copy of our proposal shortly. Unfortunately, the longer the negotiations take, the shorter the period of time in which the furlough days must be served. Ideally, we would like to give everyone the option of serving only one furlough day a pay period to soften the financial impact. But if we do not reach agreement until there are only seven pay periods left in the year, that could mean everyone would have to serve as many as two furlough days in the same pay period. As if that is not difficult enough to deal with, we have to factor into the negotiations the potential for avoiding any furloughs if we delay long enough for Congress to enact a fix. Clearly, these will be complex negotiations. As I typically do on any significant issue, I will appoint a team of CBP chapter presidents to represent us at the national table.
We also have the right to enter oral and written replies on behalf of every unit employee management proposes to furlough. I have not yet decided whether that will be a good tactical move, but I have staff preparing to help chapters make those replies. I do not have to tell you how much time that would take for chapter leaders to complete.
You can also assure our members that we will be reaching out to everyone on the Hill and in the media for help in fighting sequestration and the specific impacts it has on CBP.
Some members will have questions almost immediately. One that is sure to be asked is whether employees will be retroactively paid for any furlough days they may have already served if Congress fixes the problems later in the year. We do not know, but there are surely no guarantees. That would probably be addressed in subsequent legislation. I will send you more information as we get it from management, OMB and OPM.
While the attached national notice contains some details, I am sure that the moves outlined in that memo will trigger additional changes at the port-level. These could include shift changes, staffing adjustments, changes in processing procedures, leave cancellations, and several other matters. I suggest you watch closely for them and demand to bargain where they are made. If they are made unilaterally, discuss with your National Field Representative how to grieve that to create at least the potential for back pay for members harmed. You may also find managers talking directly with employees about how to adjust to the changes in their individual work units, e.g., how to spread out the necessary furlough days. That would be an illegal bypass of the union and also should be challenged.
As you have seen, especially in the last 48 hours, the White House is flooding the media with details of how difficult the sequestration cuts would be on the public. If you are contacted by local media for a story, please coordinate with Dina Long, our Director of PR, before responding. The NTEU legislative staff is also available to help you should local Congressional representatives contact you for more details on the local impact.
In addiion, you will shortly be receiving a local chapter sequestration action package that has been designed to help chapters educate and involve employees in the furlough and sequestration fight. And stopping sequestration will be the top priority issue that we will be addressing next week at the NTEU Legislative Conference, with hundreds of NTEU leaders in D.C. and on the Hill..
I will stay in touch on any developments on this important matter as we approach the Marach 1 date for sequestration. Please watch emails for updates.