Congress is expected to get moving this week on legislation that would save the government's 4-day-work-week program that is due to expire in late July.
Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-N.Y.) today will introduce a bill that would permit agencies to continue so-called maxi-flex work schedules under which employes voluntarily work 9- or 10-hour days without being paid overtime.
Both the Ferraro bill and pending legislation by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) would give federal agencies a 90-day period after passage when they could unilaterally terminate any existing AWS (alternate work schedule) program.
Ferraro, however, would give federal unions the right to immediately return to the bargaining table to negotiate a replacement for an AWS agreement abolished during that 90-day agency review period.
Stevens' bill, which is more to the liking of the Reagan administration because it gives management more control over the AWS program, is silent on the issue of negotiating AWS replacements. It is due to be voted on this week.
But it may run into trouble with House Democrats and organized labor, because Sen. William Armstrong (R-Colo.) will try to amend it to extend the overtime waiver to contractors working for Uncle Sam.
AFL-CIO leaders do not like the federal AWS program's voluntary waiver of overtime and they are even more opposed to extending that principle into the private sector, which the Armstrong amendment would do.
The Stevens bill is likely to be passed before the House can take up Ferraro's plan. In that case--because time is short--the House may take up the Stevens bill under a rule that requires a two-thirds vote of approval for passage and bars any floor amendments.
Thousands of federal workers in the metro Washington area are working under some kind of AWS program, ranging from "flexi-time" (an 8-hour day where employes set their own schedules) to "maxi-flex" variations that allow employes to work four 10-hour days and get a three-day weekend, or programs that allow employes to work compressed schedules that give them a 4-day week twice a month.
The AWS program expired in March. Congress extended it for 120 days to give itself time to come up with a compromise that would extend the program indefinitely. But the White House has made it clear that it will not bend much and that management must have authority to cancel even negotiated AWS programs if the government finds they cost more money, or do not serve the public as well as the standard 8-hour-day shift.
Ferraro and others would like to see a more liberal AWS program. But they know time is against them, and fear the entire system will go down the tubes unless a bill agreeable to the White House is approved quickly.
Staffers working for Ferraro and Stevens hope they can come up with a compromise that is acceptable to both sides. But things could come unglued if the White House balks at Ferraro's AWS renegotiation language, or if organized labor gets the House to shoot down the Stevens bill with the Armstrong overtime amendment.
Unless the legislation is cleared before mid-July, agencies will have to begin terminating maxi-flex programs because they would then be unable to let employes work more than 8 hours a day without paying them overtime.