IRS and union come to terms on buyout plan

Aiming to head off wholesale layoffs, IRS and its employee union have negotiated an
agreement to provide buyouts and voluntary job reassignments.


IRS will eliminate 2,371 jobs, IRS spokeswoman Jodi Patterson said, including 819 in
information systems. The agreement will provide employees who volunteer to quit or retire
with one-time payments of up to $25,000, depending years of service, according to National
Treasury Employees Union officials.


To take advantage of buyouts, employees must apply between Nov. 7 and Jan. 3. All
employees who receive buyouts must be off the payroll by Jan. 3, the NTEU-IRS agreement
says.


The buyouts will be available on a first-come, first-served basis to all employees at
or below the grade level of the jobs being abolished in the commuting area surrounding
each affected IRS office, the agreement says.


Employees not eligible for retirement will be given priority over those who have enough
service and are old enough to retire. Rules for combining buyouts with retirement and for
resolving questions over who gets buyouts are spelled out in the agreement.


Treasury, the Office of Management and Budget and Congress still must give their
approval to the buyout plan. But both NTEU and IRS officials said they expect that the
plan will clear this hurdle.


About one-third of the 819 systems jobs that will be eliminated are in the Washington
headquarters. IRS officials could provide few specifics beyond that.


Just last month the agency notified NTEU it planned to do away with 1,500 systems jobs
[GCN, Oct. 21, Page 1]. Patterson said the numbers are smaller because "we
convinced appropriators to shift some funds" to the operational IT systems line item.


Agency officials also said that while eliminating 2,371 jobs, the agency will create
1,312 new ones. As a result, the net loss will be close to 1,000 jobs.


NTEU officials said they and IRS managers hope to avoid as many layoffs as possible and
instead move employees into the new jobs, other open positions or out of IRS via buyouts.


Despite the NTEU-IRS agreement on buyout and reassignment plan, NTEU president Robert
M. Tobias continues to oppose the reduction in force.


"What this agreement does is provide for the opportunity for buyouts for targeted
employees and buyout opportunities for non-targeted employees whose vacancy would create a
position for targeted employees," Tobias said.


After the buyouts and reassignments, when IRS will begin RIFs still is a subject of
debate between the agency and the union. IRS has said it will begin layoffs March 2, one
day after it must submit a RIF plan to Congress justifying any staff reductions. NTEU
officials said they are pushing lawmakers to delay the RIFs while Congress reviews its
plan.



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