The Internal Revenue Service may pair sequester furloughs with federal holidays to create four-day weekends when it places employees on unpaid leave because of the government-wide spending cuts that kicked in last month, according to union officials.
The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS workers, told its chapter presidents that the agency is considering shutting down on May 24, July 5 and August 30 to coincide with the Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day weekends, respectively.
Sequestration requires the IRS to trim its spending by more than $590 million. The agency has said it plans to furlough employees this year for up to seven days after tax filing season has ended.
The IRS may close down entirely for two to four more days in addition to the holiday-time furloughs the agency is considering, according to the NTEU, which is working with the IRS to negotiate the terms of unpaid leave.
“While there are advantages to that [furlough plan] for employees, there are also disadvantages,” said NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley. “Moreover, IRS may assert that when employees serve their furlough days is nonnegotiable, which would deny our bargaining team the chance to decide which approach is better.”
Kelley said some workers may prefer flexibility in scheduling their furlough days for child care purposes or other personal needs. “Our efforts at the bargaining table will be directed at providing employees with maximum flexibility while allowing the agency to meet its mission,” she added.
The IRS declined to confirm whether it was considering shutting down around holidays as a way to fulfill its furloughs.
“At this point, the IRS is still looking at between five and seven days for employee furloughs,” the agency said in a statement on Wednesday. “We have not finalized any decisions involving timing or specific dates, but the furloughs will be later this year after major filing season work is completed.”
The IRS also said on Wednesday that the stopgap budget Congress and President Obama recently approved will require the agency to cut spending by $100 million more than it had originally expected under the sequester.
The IRS would not be alone in imposing furloughs around holidays if the agency chooses to go that route. The Environmental Protection Agency informed employees in a memo this week that it would impose mandatory unpaid leave for furloughed workers on May 24, giving them four days off for Memorial Day weekend.
The EPA, which expects to furlough employees for up to 13 days this year, said it may force some employees to take unpaid leave around the Independence Day and Labor Day weekends as well, but only if the agency determines that a second phase of furloughs is necessary to meet its sequester target.
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