GSA shelves plans for warehouse closings

GSA shelves plans for warehouse closings

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

The General Services Administration has backed away from a plan to close eight Federal Supply Service warehouses and instead will allow agencies to buy directly from vendors through an online store.

The agency had wanted to continue with the plan despite protests from union leaders demanding that GSA negotiate with them because of the labor implications. GSA officials said they will try to negotiate a compromise with the union representing warehouse staff.

GSA and the American Federation of Government Employees earlier this month agreed to reopen discussions.

'We agree that this subject is so important and affects so many people that we should make this an innovative effort,'' GSA Administrator David J. Barram said.

Barram said he would like to complete the negotiations by the end of the month.

Last month, Barram had decided to proceed with the warehouse closure despite an arbitrator's decision directing GSA to negotiate with AFGE before proceeding with its plans [GCN, Sept. 27, Page 3].

'As I see it, we are at a fork in the road,'' Barram said in an Oct. 8 letter to AFGE president Bobby L. Harnage. 'We have been on a number of confusing paths.''

GSA and AFGE will seek to resolve the financial problems faced by maintaining supplies at agency-run warehouses. GSA managers have said it is too expensive to keep running the warehouse program and that direct sales would cut costs.

Barram said the agency will lose $100,000 each day it keeps the supply depots open.

Under the agreement, approved by the independent arbitrator earlier this month, AFGE will withdraw a grievance against GSA protesting the closings.


Back to square one

GSA will completely revisit its warehouse plans and will disband six transition teams formed to manage the closures.

GSA also will not use the authority it received from Congress to offer buyouts to warehouse employees.

'We will treat all operations as going concerns,'' Barram said, describing the agreement as 'rolling back the clock.''

There is one exception. GSA officials said they cannot reopen the Chicago warehouse because four of the eight employees already have moved to new jobs within GSA and the stock has been dispersed.

GSA plans to find jobs for the remaining four employees within the agency.

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