Boston’s Federal Workers Fear Sequester Furloughs

BOSTON — The sequester deadline is expected to pass Friday without a deal from lawmakers. That will kick off across-the-board federal budget cuts. And across Massachusetts, many government workers will be getting furloughed. Unsurprisingly, most are not happy about it.

‘A Big Loss’

Thousands of government employees at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston are bracing for furloughs. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)

Thousands of government employees at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston are bracing for furloughs. (Curt Nickisch/WBUR)

Thousands of people work in the John F. Kennedy Federal Building at Boston’s Government Center. It’s actually twin 26-story buildings. On Thursday, the word “sequester” seemed to be on the lips of federal employees going in and out. Bethany Seed said she’s not looking forward to Monday, when she might be handed a furlough notice.

“For me, personally, a furlough would be a problem because I’d still be paying for full-time child care,” Seed said. “And I’d be losing my pay from work. So it’s not something I would like to see happen.”

Seed is an economist with the U.S. Department of Labor. When you hear things like jobless numbers, she works on those statistics. Her boss — not her director supervisor, but way up the chain — is Seth Harris, the acting U.S. labor secretary, who was visiting Boston Thursday.

“Unfortunately, a sizable number of my workers are going to be subject to furloughs,” Harris said. “It’s going to vary from agency to agency across the department. We’re going to lose about six days of work from our employees on average. That’s a big loss.”

Harris said a furlough program would not only take money from his workers’ pockets, it would also keep them from doing their work: serving citizens.

‘It Is What It Is’

Hector Benjamin works in the JFK Building, too. He’s an auditor with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He said furloughs won’t change the job his office has to do.

“Our work is not as backed up as it is in other departments,” Benjamin said. “I wanna say thank God for that.” But, “We’ll still be expected to our work in less time. It is what it is.”

Some federal workers in Boston say their supervisors are planning to cut travel or other costs to keep furloughs to a minimum. Still, the uncertainty is no fun, says labor employee Seed.

“A lot of times the trade-off with a federal job is slightly lower pay but great security,” Seed said. “So this is all kind of, like, really unexpected and new for us.”

There’s still time for a congressional compromise to reverse course. Without one, furlough notices would come on Monday. The unpaid leave for some federal workers would begin April 4.

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3Q4HNMFZS24VM6Z4JHRW5FMQFE Derek

    good goodbye to overpaid do nothing jobs

    • rockhauler

      all the federal workers i’ve dealt with have been far more competent, responsive, and industrious than what i’ve seen in the private sector and some state agencies. so i find your comment to be a bit ignorant of what the federal sector provides. i am very impressed with the rapid and intelligent responses of the people in SSA, IRS, and HUD. i’ve also done cross-industrial studies of job categories and found that public sector workers are paid significantly less than comparable positions in the private sector.

    • orangegenie1

      You say that in absolutist terms as if exactly all of them are. I can see that for the Do-Nothing Congress though!

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    great! maybe they can use this time to look for real jobs that actually help the economy. six days off really does not sound like the solution to our problems. we need to eliminate agencies and employees all over the federal govt until we are solvent. I suggest we start with the 60,000 TSA workers

  • goodidea222

    This is stupid, it’s a week of furlough a month! Working for free! That sounds patriotic but they will stop spending, buy less and live cheaply. Are the business ready to reduce prices properly to this new low-salary economy?

  • Vinnie G

    People who are worried about sequester cuts are mainly the Federal and State employees and the greedy Defense Contractors. For the average person this sequester won’t even make a difference. The Federal and especially the Massachusetts State agencies are full of employees who don’t deserve the paychecks and benefits that they are getting to begin with. There is so much waste and laziness in the State Agencies its beyond belief. Then the Towns and Cities that’s just as bad or worst with those workers and their entitlement minded ungrateful attitudes as to where their paychecks are coming from. Ya! The Taxpayers!

  • Vinnie G

    BTW I went to the INS in the JFK Building recently and did not see one single American behind the customer service counters and not only were they all foreigners but they had really bad condescending and arrogant attitudes. What is going on in this Country?

    • orangegenie1

      Probably the same reason we’ve had condescending and arrogant Americans and were always the “no-person” more than the “yes-person”. Simple stuff, okay, they were helpful, but if your life depended on help, forget it. This wasn’t just in federal or state, but all around just as it was the norm for people to treat each other that way anyway, (I encountered that in Cape Cod living or in NH, but not in Maine) and that went on for years and years. The foreigners haven’t been seasoned enough to the “government whipping boys”, so they act that way themselves? Some are still jealous of American citizens and are looking out for their own people thinking they’re worse off and need the help more? I think nowadays community-oriented support and self-supporting areas (ones whom create and manufacture their own goods, for example) do more than just be “yes-people”; they go further in miles and years bringing sustainability to people and for many generations. But, we can’t do everything ourselves. The sequester will put us further back and our economy will really sink. I think there’s too many nasties trying to sink this country and it is not from the D party, not from the real-R party, but the GOP Tea Party cultists. Well, let’s see how these cutbacks do, as I read the comments with complaints about government workers and agencies. Why don’t we petition that if they cut back one thing, they replenish another? Example, if they cut back on the Fisheries Dept., how about replenishing the Postal Service? Just food for thought…just saying..

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