THE PRESIDENT'S BUDGET PROPOSAL
The White House has unveiled its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, and once again there are cuts proposed. In recent years, President Obama has requested increased funding for the Service, then Congress enacted cuts. This time around, the president is proposing less spending, a 2.1% reduction.
President Trump's budget outline calls for significant savings achieved by “diverting resources from antiquated operations that are still reliant on paper-based review,” but it does not specify which accounts within the IRS budget, including enforcement, taxpayer services, operations support and BSM, would be cut. The request does not provide funding totals for any of the major accounts within the IRS budget.
NTEU strongly opposes the President’s FY 2018 request for the IRS which would reduce IRS funding to below its FY 2008 level. As you know, the IRS has already absorbed almost $1 billion in cuts since FY 2010 which has resulted in the loss of more than 17,000 full-time employees, including many frontline customer service and enforcement personnel. The lack of sufficient staffing has strained the IRS’s ability to serve taxpayers and enforce our nation’s tax laws. Without additional funding, taxpayers will continue experiencing a degradation of services, including longer wait times to receive assistance over the telephone, victims of identity theft and other types of fraud will not receive the assistance they need in a timely manner, and revenue will go uncollected.
“This is an unwarranted attack on the federal workforce,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said. “Federal employees are nonpartisan: They work on the priorities set by the administration that is in office and carry out the laws passed by Congress. Rest assured they will carry on and do their jobs admirably, as always, but I worry about the long-term effects that such an austere budget proposal will have.”
Reardon took direct aim at cuts at the Internal Revenue Service. “IRS has already lost 17,000 employees in the last seven years, and even fewer IRS workers means fewer tax cheats are caught and taxpayers can’t get the help they need, which hurts everyone,” Reardon said.
This budget proposal begins the budget process. We at Chapter 49 will continue to update you on developments.
2017 PAY TABLES, BY LOCALITY
The local pay tables for 2017 have been released by the Office of Personnel Management. Below are links of interest in IRS employees in Indiana.
The pay table for the Indianapolis area can be found at this link
Merrillville IRS employees are tied to Chicago area locality pay, and that table is available at this link
Any Indiana IRS worker not tied to the Indianapolis or Chicago pay areas are on the 'Rest of the US" locality, and that 2017 table can be found at this link
AWARDS MONEY IS FINALLY
ON THE WAY
After long, protracted bargaining with NTEU, with the union constantly prodding management to pay up, Chapter 49 finally has word on when awards money will be in your bank accounts.
Here are the important payment dates we know now (all 2016):
Performance Awards November 23
Bilingual Awards December 22
QSIs will become effective October 17, 2016, but the actual pay increases (from the step increases) will occur on November 10, 2016.
Chapter 49 is still awaiting the detailed information on now much each of our members will be receiving. We will keep you posted. Contact any Chapter 49 officer or steward with any questions.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT MIKE KEETHERS
When you volunteer to become a steward for the National Treasury Employees Union, you are making a commitment to help people working with you when they are in need of that help. One person that exemplified what it means to be a steward for NTEU was Mike Keethers.
Mike tragically is gone. He apparently experienced a medical emergency while hiking a trail in a remote area of Vermont. He was taken from us at the way-too-early age of 57.
When we both worked at the Accounts Management call center, Mike and I regularly talked about issues facing employees and how we could provide the assistance they needed. Mike was a caring, intelligent person. Beyond that, he was personable. I can't think of anyone who did not like Mike.
I recall a training session we both attended in Las Vegas. Mike loved the game of poker and played when he could. I tried to teach him craps (the dice game) but her didn't win on his first try. He blamed me, in a joking way, and that was OK. We had fun.
I have now been retired from IRS for 5 years, yet there is still a strong bond with the people I worked with during my 28 years at the agency. We have lost too many very good people recently. Mike is the latest. It hurts when something like this happens. But knowing Mike, he would tell us to smile, get over it, and move on.
Mike was a special person, solid IRS employee and a dedicated union steward during the years he performed that duty. I will miss him. A lot.
FEDERAL EMPLOYEES & THE REPUBLICAN PLATFORM
The Republican Party platform approved at their 2016 convention in Cleveland, does contain passages about what the GOP would do with federal workers.
The first section deals with federal pay:
"The federal workforce is larger and more highly paid than ever. The taxpayers spend an average of $35,000 a year per employee on non-cash benefits, triple the average non-cash compensation of the average worker in the private sector. Federal employees receive extraordinary pension benefits and vacation time wildly out of line with those of the private sector. We urge Congress to bring federal compensation and benefits in line with the standards of most American employees. A Republican administration should streamline personnel procedures to expedite the firing of bad workers, tax cheats, and scammers."
The following passage deals with how Republicans view your union and your ability to be represented and have access to due process:
"We recognize the dedication of most employees of the federal government and thank them for their service, with special praise for the whistleblowers who risk their careers to expose waste, fraud, and misuse of power. None of them should ever be compelled to join a union or pay dues to it. In fairness to their fellow workers, union representatives should not be allowed to engage in union-related activities while on the public’s time. The inability of federal managers to discipline and, if necessary, dismiss problem staff members is an affront to every conscientious worker, as is the misuse of funds for lavish conferences and routine bonuses. The appointees of a Republican president will work with career managers to end those abuses and enforce high standards for all federal employees. We reaffirm the existing protections that provide all employees of the federal government the opportunity to pursue their desire to serve their country free from discrimination."
The message here is that the Republican platform believes you are overpaid and your retirement benefits should be cut. In additional, the GOP favors hamstringing the union charged by law to represent you, even though you have no legal requirement to join a union.
Just facts you should know.
NTEU WINS IMPORTANT ARBITRATION DECISION OVER PRIORITY CONSIDERATION
When an IRS employee is awarded priority consideration as a result of a grievance procedure, it means just that - priority consideration. When management didn't live up to that contractual and legal requirement, an arbitrator agreed with NTEU that the employee should have received the promotion.
The grievance alleged IRS failed to give bona fide priority consideration to a Grade 9 Revenue Officer (RO) for a Grade 11 RO vacancy. The grievant was a 24-year employee who received priority consideration as a result of a settlement of a prior grievance. The grievant also competitively applied for the vacancy. The Selecting Official, who was the grievant’s second level manager, only considered the grievant’s most recent performance appraisal (which was Exceeds Fully Successful), the Step 2 grievance response that granted her the priority consideration, and the grievant’s résumé that the IRS had on file. The agency’s HR department did not provide a copy of the grievant’s application to the Selecting Official as required by the IRM. The grievant also previously had a 120-day detail to the Grade 11 RO position that the Selecting Official did not find significant. The Selecting Official conducted an abbreviated interview of the grievant that included asking her why she was the best candidate.
The arbitrator agreed with NTEU that asking the grievant to sell herself and compare herself to other unknown candidates was highly inappropriate for a priority consideration candidate. The arbitrator found that the IRS violated its own IRM when it failed to provide a copy of the grievant’s application to the Selecting Official. Following the plethora of prior arbitration decisions on priority consideration, he further found that the agency failed to prove that the employee had job-related inadequacies that justified non-selection. The arbitrator sustained the grievance, ordered the grievant be selected for the next Grade 11 RO position in the grievant’s commuting area, back pay from the time the other candidates entered the position until the grievant is placed in the position.
The bottom line is this - if you have priority consideration, the management must honor that.
FUTURE STATE -
WHAT IS IT?
When you hear or read the term "Future State," have you ever wondered what the heck management is talking about? Don't feel alone.
NTEU has been playing close attention to this "Future State" concept being pushed by the agency at the highest levels. Chapter 49 has been communicating with our members about our view of the Future State.
We are not against new technologies, but we have concerns about the impact on employees. NTEU is not waiving any bargaining rights. We also believe front-line employees should be on teams planning this Future State.
If money is saved through Future State, those funds should be directed to front-line employee work. We all know how depleted all parts of IRS are at the moment.
Stay tuned. Chapter 49 will have more to say about all this.
HERE WE GO AGAIN...MORE PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS FOR IRS
On May 24th, NTEU sent a letter to members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government urging them to reject a proposed FY’17 draft funding measure that contains devastating cuts to the IRS budget. Consideration of this spending plan is scheduled for May 25th.
In our letter to subcommittee members, NTEU noted the proposed funding measure would slash the IRS’s budget by $236 million below the current level, and $1.28 billion below the President’s request. We highlighted the adverse impact that recent budget cuts in excess of $900 million have had on the IRS’s ability to provide taxpayers with the assistance they need to comply with their tax obligations, to combat identity theft and other types of refund fraud, and to generate critical revenue for the federal government.
It is sad that leaders in the House of Representatives continue pushing for cuts in the IRS budget. We at Chapter 49 will keep you updated on the IRS budget as it continues its way through Capitol Hill.
EXAMPLES OF TELEWORK SITUATIONS
We at Chapter 49 have tried to keep you up to date
on the latest information about Telework and some of the confusion swirling around the interpretations of Article 50 in the National Agreement.
Here are examples of how the rule is applied to certain work situations:
• The employee is a frequent teleworker, and she works at her residence/telework site for the entire pay period, and never performs work at a taxpayer location or other work site. Here, the employee would have an obligation to report to the POD twice per pay period even where the location of the work performed is in the locality pay area of the official duty station.
• The employee is a frequent teleworker and holds a position that requires her to make field calls to taxpayers or otherwise conduct some business at multiple locations other than her telework site. So long as this work is regularly performed in the locality pay area of her official duty station (POD), the employee does not have an obligation to report to the POD.
• Similarly, if the employee is a frequent teleworker who splits time between two locations during the pay period e.g., home/frequent telework site and one taxpayer site, and that work is performed “within the locality pay area,” then the work locations are “varying on a recurring basis” and the employee has no obligation to report to the POD at all during that pay period.
• The employee is a frequent teleworker whose telework site is within RUS and so is their official duty station and the employee sits at one address (the residence/telework site) performing work for the entire pay period, and never performs work at a taxpayer location or other work site, the employee would have an obligation to report to the POD twice a pay period.
• The employee is a frequent teleworker within the RUS and the employee’s work location varies on a recurring basis, and that work is “regularly” performed within the employee’s RUS area, the employee has no obligation to report to the POD in that pay period.
It is important to note that if an employee fails to meet their obligations for telework, he or she can be removed from telework.
If you have any questions about any of this, contact a Chapter 49 officer or steward.
TELEWORK - HERE WE GO AGAIN!
It appears that, in some parts of the nation, IRS is demanding that employees approved for telework report to the office once a week or twice-a-pay-period or they may be removed from Frequent Telework. IRS is claiming that Article 50, Section 1, (A)(4) justifies this position. This is the second time in the past month that NTEU national officials have heard of this. This management interpretation of our contract is incorrect. Article 50 Section 1(A)(4) provides:
"The employee may be removed from Telework if he or she fails to report to his or her assigned POD within the locality pay area at least two (2) days each pay period; or if his or her work location varies on a recurring basis and he or she fails to regularly perform work within the locality pay area."
This provision must be read in conjunction with the rest of the Article 50, Section 1(A)(2) language that establishes that the telework location must be within a 150 mile radius of the employee’s assigned POD, the locality pay statute and OPM regulations found at 5 C.F.R. 531, Part F entitled Locality Based Comparability Payments.
Briefly, 5 U.S.C. Section 5304 establishes that locality pay shall be payable within each locality determined to have a pay disparity of greater than (5) five percent as determined by the Federal Salary Counsel or pay agent. OPM has then established over (30) thirty locality pay areas throughout the United States. Those areas not entitled to locality pay are called Rest of U.S. (RUS) 5 C.F.R. 531.603.
In order to ensure that employees receive the proper locality rate of pay, the OPM regulations establish the standards for determining where an employee’s official worksite is located. If your worksite is within the locality pay area you get the locality pay rate established for that area. 5 CFR 531.604. When determining the official worksite for locality pay purposes for an employee covered by a telework agreement, the regulations further provide that the employee’s official worksite is the regular worksite where the employee is scheduled to work at least twice each biweekly pay period on a regular and recurring basis, 5 C.F.R. 605(d)(1).
Significantly, the regulation also provides:
"However, in the case of such an employee whose work locations varies on a recurring basis, the employee need not work at least twice each biweekly pay period at the regular official worksite (where the employees work activities are based) as long as the employee is regularly performing work within the locality pay area for that worksite."
The OPM Fact Sheet “Official Worksite for Location-Based Pay Purposes”, which I have attached, states this Section 531.605(d)(1) regulatory requirement for locality pay entitlement as follows:
"In the case of a telework employee whose work location varies on a recurring basis, the employee need not report at least twice each biweekly pay period to the regular worksite established by the agency as long as the employee is performing work within the same geographic area (established for the purpose of a given pay entitlement) as the employee’s regular worksite. For example, if a telework employee with a varying work location works at least twice each biweekly pay period on a regular and recurring basis in the same locality pay area in which the established official worksite is located, the employee need not report at least twice each biweekly pay period to that official worksite to maintain entitlement to the locality payment for that area."
Indeed, IRM 6.800.2.8(2)(A) specifically acknowledges the following as an exception for the twice-a-pay-period reporting requirements:
"If an employee’s work location varies on a daily basis (e.g. a revenue agent working at a taxpayer site) then the employee need not report for the official IRS duty station twice-a-pay-period as long as the employee is performing work within the locality pay area of their official IRS workstation on a regular and recurring basis."
The IRM incorrectly states this is a “temporary exception”. The regulations at 5 C.F.R. 531.605(d)(1) establishing this exception have nothing to do with the temporary nature of the work. 5 C.F.R. 531.605(d)(2) identifies the temporary exceptions and this is not one of them. Naturally, per Article 2, Section 1, the regulations, not the IRM govern this situation.
Thus, if a Frequent Telework approved employee works from home and his/her residence in the locality pay area, there is no twice-a-pay-period requirement to report to the office. If a Frequent Telework approved Field employee works from his/her home and/or at a taxpayer’s location in the locality pay area on a regular and recurring basis, the same applies.
In addition, we addressed this issue of the twice-a-pay-period reporting requirement for telework employees whose work locations are not in a designated locality pay area, but in the “rest of the United States” (RUS). The National Parties Implementation Letter for the 2016 National Agreement States:
Article 50 – Telework, Section 1A4
"To meet the reporting requirement for employees whose locality pay area is in the “rest of the United States,” the employee must be regularly performing work within the commuting area of his or her assigned POD or in the geographic area where work has been assigned by his/her supervisor. This does not alter the reporting requirement contained in this subsection."
This makes clear that Frequent Telework approved employees located in the rest of the U.S. locality pay category satisfy the twice-a-pay-period reporting required by regularly performing work in the assigned POD’s commuting area or in the geographic area when the supervisor assigns the work.
The bottom line is that the language of Article 50, Section 1(A)(4) concerning an employee being removed from Telework if not reporting to the office twice-a-pay-period applies only in a situation where an employee fails to work in the locality pay area on a regular and recurring basis, thus making them ineligible for the locality pay rate designated for their official worksite. Removal from Frequent Telework was the solution that we negotiated with IRS to ensure compliance with the governing locality pay regulations.
Telework is one of the most significant benefits of our hard fought negotiations with IRS. In the past National NTEU officials have had to address misinformation put out by IRS concerning reporting to the office and the negotiated benefit of being able to work 150 miles from the POD. History may be repeating itself.
Bottom line, telework employees need to know this twice-a-pay-period reporting requirement only applies to Frequent Telework employees who do not perform work either at home or in the field on a regular and recurring basis within the locality pay area.
If you have any further questions, contact any Chapter 49 officer or steward.
CONGRESSIONAL VOTING RECORDS
NTEU has the best legislative department in the federal sector, perhaps any sector. That legislative staff has put together voting records for our election officials in Washington.
To learn how Indiana lawmakers in Washington have been voting on issues of importance to federal workers, Chapter 49 has listed their voting records. Access the records at this link.
CHAPTER 49 OFFICERS ARE SET FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS
The officer slate for NTEU Chapter 49 has been set for the three-year period starting October 1, 2016. When the nomination process was complete, only one person per office accepted a nomination. Therefore, all those accepting nominations have been declared elected by election Chairperson Susan Wright. Here are the elected officers:
President - Duncan Giles
Vice President - Scott Carder
Treasurer - Rosemary Wooden
Secretary - Gail Groves
Susan Wright was elected Chapter 49 Vice President in the last election round, but was forced to relinquish that post after her election to a national NTEU Vice President position. National union bylaws do not permit anyone to hold both offices at the same time. The position of Chapter 49 Vice President has been vacant and will be assumed by Scott Carder October 1st.
BUDGET SAGA CONTINUES, THIS TIME IT'S THE SENATE
We've updated you recently on the recent House Committee vote to further cut IRS funding, now it's the Senate's turn. NTEU National President Tony Reardon sent a letter to each member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee.
In that letter, NTEU detailed the adverse impact that recent budget cuts totaling almost $1 billion have had on IRS’ ability to carry out its taxpayer service and enforcement missions. We highlighted the harmful effects funding and staffing reductions have had on the IRS’ ability to deliver taxpayer services and the lost revenue due to decreased enforcement activities. NTEU urged the Subcommittee to provide the IRS with sufficient resources in FY 2017 to allow it to begin rebuilding its depleted workforce and to meet its important taxpayer service and enforcement missions.
Our NTEU legislative staff are some of the best in the business, but they need your help. Chapter 49 urges you to contact both Indiana Snators Coats and Donnelly. You can do so easily at this link.
HOUSE COMMITTEE CUTS IRS BUDGET - AGAIN!
On June 9th, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2017 Financial Services and General Government spending bill with drastic cuts to the IRS budget by a vote of 30-17. The measure provides the IRS with a total of $10.9 billion for FY ’17, $236 million less than the current FY ’16 enacted level and $1.28 billion less than proposed by the President. In particular, the bill would reduce funding for IRS enforcement and operations support by $100 million and $136 million below the FY’16 enacted level, respectively.
It goes with saying that this bill would further impair our agency's already degraded ability to carry out taxpayer service and enforcement missions. NTEU National President Tony Rearrdon sent a letter to every member of the committee prior to this vote, urging them to oppose the cuts contained in the bill and to adequately fund the agency.
NTEU will continue to make clear that the level of funding provided to the IRS in the bill is completely inadequate, and will press Congress to provide IRS with the resources necessary to accomplish its missions. If you wish to contact your 2 senators and member of Congress, use this link for the easy-to-use CapWiz system.
If you have any questions, contact any Chapter 49 officer or steward.
NTEU GOES TO BAT FOR
Many Chapter 49 members utilize the FSAFEDS program to receive tax-free treatment of expenses such as child care and health care. FSAFEDS is about to change providers and use a new vendor for this program. That is creating a problem.
There is a blackout period scheduled soon due to this change in providers where those participating in the program will not be able to paid reimbursements. The money will continue to be withheld from your pay, you just won't get your reimbursement money. This blackout is expected to last a little over a month.
NTEU knows many using this program for dependent care services will suffer a hardship due to the blackout period when no reimbursement payments will be made.
The blackout period begins on Saturday, July 30, 2016 and ends Thursday, September 1, 2016. For more details on the blackout, use this link
NTEU National President Tony Reardon has written a letter to Office of Personnel Management Director Beth Colbert asking that payments into the FSA system be suspended during the blackout period since those electing the benefit were not aware a blackout period would happen when their annual election to participate was made. Reardon also asked Colbert to consider a shorter blackout period.
We at Chapter 49 will keep you posted on all developments in this FSAFEDS blackout issue.
ANOTHER ARBITRATION WIN
OVER UNACCEPTABLE PERFORMANCE
When your manager believes you are not performing up to an acceptable level, based on your critical job elements, that manager has a responsibility to help you improve. Our contract language, and the regulations governing the federal work force, provide the guidance on how that should be done.
NTEU has represented a number of employees in cases where the management proposed termination, but once we look at the documentation, we often find little or no coaching was provided to that employee.
Before a management decision to fire or downgrade an employee for poor performance can be sustained, the agency must establish that the employee was given a bona fide opportunity to improve their performance. NTEU has once again prevailed in an arbitration decision overturning the removal of an employee for unacceptable performance, because the IRS failed to provide him with a meaningful opportunity to improve.
The arbitrator's ruling says that although the IRS met the contractual requirements for the content of the opportunity letter, the employee’s manager failed to follow through on the promised assistance. The manager’s reviews of the employee’s performance were heavy on criticism and light on assistance and encouragement. More specifically, the arbitrator pointed out that the manager should have spent more time on showing the employee how to do his job better instead of simply repeating what he needed to do better.
As the most recent in a long line of NTEU victories in performance-based cases based on deficiencies in the opportunity period, the arbitrator’s decision contains an excellent summary of other arbitrators’ observations about the IRS’s obligations during this critical time.
If you would like to read the entire arbitration decision, use this link.
WHAT THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE JUST DID
On April 13th, the House Committee on Ways and Means considered and approved several bills that would weaken IRS’ ability to carry out taxpayer service and enforcement missions, and undermine efforts to retain dedicated and experienced employees.
Legislation considered by the committee included bills that would: eliminate IRS’ ability to use the user fees that it collects; prohibit the hiring of additional IRS employees until the Secretary of the Treasury certifies that no existing employee of the IRS has a seriously delinquent tax debt; and prohibit IRS from paying awards to any of its employees until Treasury develops and implements a comprehensive customer service strategy for the IRS.
NTEU strongly opposed these measures and sent a letter to every member of the committee urging they be rejected. We noted all of these bills would simply jeopardize IRS’ ability to carry out their taxpayer service and enforcement missions, and undercut efforts to retain dedicated and experienced employees.
At this time, no date has been set for full House consideration of these bills. Should that change, you can be assured that NTEU will work with our supporters in the House to highlight the adverse impact these bills would have on the IRS and its frontline employees to defeat these misguided proposals.
The only member of the House Ways and Means Committee from Indiana is Todd Young, from the 9th District in Southern Indiana. If you reside in his district, you can contact Congressman Young's office by accessing this link.
PRESIDENT OBAMA BACKS FUNDING FOR IRS
President Obama spoke on April 5th about tax compliance, pushing Congress to fund IRS per his budget proposals.
He highlighted the adverse impact that recent cuts to the IRS budget have had on its ability to combat offshore tax evasion and to effectively enforce our nation’s tax laws.
In his remarks, the President noted that the administration’s efforts to crack down on offshore tax evasion and close various tax loopholes had been complicated by a lack of sufficient funding for the IRS which has left the agency without the necessary staffing to achieve its goals.
NTEU greatly appreciates the President’s acknowledgement of the impact recent IRS budget cuts have had on the agency’s ability to enforce our nation’s tax laws. We also fully support the administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request for the IRS which would provide the agency with the additional resources necessary to carry out its enforcement responsibilities, restore customer service levels that have fallen in recent years, and begin rebuilding its depleted workforce which is down more than 15,000 full-time employees since FY 2010.
As Congress considers FY 2017 funding for the IRS, you can be assured that NTEU will continue to highlight the harmful impact that recent budget cuts have had on its ability to accomplish its mission and will urge Congress to provide adequate funding for the IRS in FY 2017.
You can write your senators and member of Congress on the IRS funding issue. Use this link
NTEU TAKES ISSUE WITH NEW MANAGEMENT GUIDANCE ON TELEWORK
We started calling it Flexiplace when it first rolled-out in the 90s. In recent years, we've used the more universal term of Telework. Whatever you choose to call it, it's one of the best programs NTEU and IRS management have established. It allows a number of employees to work from their homes or other alternative locations.
A recent management document has caught the eye of NTEU.
On March 14, 2016, NTEU filed a national grievance challenging the IRS’s “Interim Guidance Memorandum” on telework. This interim guidance was sent to various managers in February, and NTEU became aware of it around February 23, 2016.
The interim guidance contains multiple requirements that were never agreed to by NTEU in either Articles 36 or 50; for example:
--that bargaining unit employees must be granted, by their managers, unscheduled telework when OPM declares an office “open with the option of unscheduled telework;”
--that employees who do not have sufficient work contact their managers to discuss additional work; and that employees who are in the office when there is an early dismissal continue to work from the telework site.
The national grievance lists 12 distinct violations of the National Agreement and notes that there may be others.
NTEU has demanded that the IRS rescind this interim guidance in its entirety. Telework is an important right that the NTEU team fought for at the bargaining table. All telework requirements and changes to past practice that were agreed between the parties are included in the National Agreement.