Last year, as it has in other difficult budgetary pinches, the District resorted to a “furlough” of its workers. Employees were not paid for four days, but neither did they work on those days.
This year, the District reported a modest budget surplus, and it was proposed workers be repaid for those furlough days. That is illogical. To “repay” workers for days not worked would be to provide them an unearned economic windfall and to shortchange taxpayers and needy populations served by other programs.
I know whereof I speak. Twenty years ago, during another budget crisis, the D.C. Council proposed that teachers (unlike other D.C. employees) be furloughed on weekends (i.e., on days that they didn’t work). As a member of the Board of Education at the time, I pointed out in a Post op-ed that docking teacher pay in that way would effectively constitute a confiscatory pay cut, not a furlough.
As I noted then: “Most of us have a common notion of what a furlough is: An employee is curtailed a day of work in order to save a day’s pay. Even if they don’t like it, most people understand the fairness of ‘no work, no pay.’ ”
But this year’s proposal was apparently “no work, but pay anyway.” We would have been paying workers for days that they did not work.
And this was to whose benefit? And it made sense just how, exactly? Council members deadlocked last week on how to allocate the surplus [Metro, May 2]. But they need to drop the idea of “repaying” for extra days off.
Jay Silberman, Washington