Feds face threat of unpaid leave, but it’s not like 17 years ago

Nick Iannelli, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – With no deal yet to stop automatic, federal budget cuts, the threat of unpaid leave looms for federal workers.

A broad cross section of federal agencies will decide how to proceed by weighing contract spending cuts, hiring freezes and furloughs.

However, there is a considerable amount of uncertainty moving forward.

“Different groups of politicians at different times have told very conflicting stories,” says Mike Causey, senior correspondent for Federal News Radio, WTOP’s sister station.

“Before the election it was nothing to worry about. Now, air traffic will be delayed, the stock market will hurt.”

Agencies are required to give employees 30 days notice before implementing furloughs.

Workers will not face unpaid leave for several weeks.

“You’re looking at probably mid-March before people get furlough notices. That gives Congress and the White House a lot of wiggle room and a lot of time,” says Causey, who has been reporting on the federal government for more than 25 years.

Some federal employees have compared their potential furloughs to the government shutdown some 17 years ago.

After a 95-96 impasse in 1996, lawmakers passed legislation allowing those workers to receive back pay for time missed.

Causey warns not to count on that action this time around.

“The purpose of sequestration is to save money. I would bet a whole lot of money that nobody is going to get retroactive pay out of this,” he says.

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