The latest federal agency to begin the process of notifying employees of furloughs is Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The agency, which has more than 60,000 employees, started sending notices that furloughs would begin after April 21 and could entail up to 14 days, spread across the rest of the fiscal year. CBP is going to use a hiring freeze, cutting travel and training budgets, and sharp cuts to overtime and compensatory time to achieve the needed budget cuts.
A representative of the employees suggest that the cuts are essentially salary cuts. Shawn Moran, National Border Patrol Council Vice President, said, “Customs and Border Protection has used sequestration as political cover to slash salary.” Employees could be subject to other adverse job actions, because of sequestration, in some cases requiring appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
The sequestration cuts would mean a nearly 40 percent pay cut to CBP agents, including overtime. Many employers, including the federal government, sometimes determine that it is cheaper to pay overtime than to hire an adequate number of employees.
Law enforcement-related agencies make it a regular practice to use overtime, often making it virtually mandatory. Most of the CBP agents work 10-hour days, and the $245 million of the $754 million in cuts would be made out of border patrol agents pay.
For employees, the risk is that sequestration will be used to engage in all sorts of unfair and potentially illegal activity by mangers. They can pretend that “they have no control” and punish certain employees or subtly play favorites, all under the cover of mandatory sequestration cuts.
Source: Federal News Radio, “CBP issues tens of thousands of furlough notices,” Mike O’Connell and Julia Ziegler, March 8, 2013