Negotiations over the RIFs of 150 headquarters employes at the Housing and Urban Development Department have stalemated, and the Federal Service Impasses Panel has been asked to step in and take a look.
The American Federation of Government Employes has been fighting the RIFs for weeks, contending that HUD is already 400 employes under its personnel ceiling and that the contemplated RIFS are politically inspired and discriminatory and would severely hurt some HUD programs.
But what the negotiations broke down over was how much time union representatives, who also are department employes, could devote to representing their members in the RIF process. The contract allows up to 10 percent of time on the job, and the union says that's not enough.
"The time involved is extraordinary during RIFs," said Greg Holman, an AFGE representative at HUD. "We have to go through 450 personnel actions for 150 RIFS."
HUD officials, however, view the issue as a stalling tactic by the union, and say they'll go ahead with the RIFs on Aug. 19, with or without union approval. "We're concerned that employes get adequate representation, but it's not of such major import as to cause us to cease and desist," said Robert Fagin, acting personnel director. "We can't allow a union to hold up a management need."
Meanwhile, the impasses panel, set up in 1970 as the mediator of last resort for federal labor disputes, is investigating at the request of both parties. But time is running out on that end as well.
It takes, on the average, about 30 days for the impasses panel to decide if it will take jurisdiction of a dispute, according to Linda Lafferty, deputy director of the office. But the panel is running out of money and, if supplementary funds are not forthcoming soon, virtually all of its staff will be furloughed for up to 22 days in September.