Wednesday, August 1

"A federal law requiring advance notice of mass layoffs does not apply to" Government Layoffs...

I have never worked for the Government, other than my time in the US Navy Reserves. I have worked for a US Government contractor. This was on my last ship, the USNS SILAS BENT. At the time the management of the ship had just passed to a company called Dyne Marine Services. The company was eager to win over the merchant marine crew that they were going to send to the ship. They even flew us to their headquarters to tell us how great they were and how we were a part of the team. What they didn't tell us, was that the Fair Labor Standards Act didn't apply to the jobs that we were about to take.
The Fair Labor Standards Act 1938 (abbreviated as FLSA; also referred to as the Wages and Hours Bill) is a federal statute of the United States. The FLSA established a national minimum wage, guaranteed 'time-and-a-half' for overtime in certain jobs, and prohibited most employment of minors in "oppressive child labor," a term that is defined in the statute. It applies to employees engaged in interstate commerce or employed by an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, unless the employer can claim an exemption from coverage. - Wiki
Now, I have no proof that their omission was done on purpose, but given that I personally asked if work over 8 hours a day and over 40 hours a week considered overtime in a room full of seafarers and company bigwigs to get confirmation that my comments were correct. What I did not ask, and what they did not offer, BUT MUST HAVE KNOWN, was that overtime would be paid as straight pay, not at 'time-and-a-half'. And why ask given that overtime for sailors means just that. Unless some sneaky bastard figures that their company can manage Government owned ships at a cheaper rate by screwing sailors out of their pay And keep in mind that sailing is 24/7, so we were all counting on a minimum of 16 hours overtime a week for simply standing watch on weekends. 

The crew had various ways of dealing with this financial setback. Many refused to work any non-mandatory overtime. I took the opportunity to work as many hours as possible. The Third Mate mad it a habit of being right at the gangway to welcome all new crew with the question 'Hey, did they tell you that overtime was at straight pay?' I have to say that it was pretty amusing to watch the smiles disappear off the faces of newly joining crew, even before they got off the gangway. (Given that this went on for 6 months, kind of suggests that the guys in the office doing the hiring were intentionally not informing new crew. It just goes to show you you really need to beware when a company tells you how great they are. They might be hiding something.) 

The reason I bring this up is the news that the Government is trying to delay layoff notices from going out to thousands of Government contractor employees until after the Presidential Election.
Under the WARN Act -- The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act -- companies with more than 100 employees must give 60 days' notice if there is to be a mass layoff during any 30-day period for 500 or more employees (or for 50-499 employees if they make up at least 33% of the employer's active workforce). But in guidance issued on Monday, Assistant Labor Secretary Jane Oates said never mind about those pink slips: "Questions have recently been raised as to whether the WARN Act requires Federal contractors...whose contracts may be terminated or reduced in the event of sequestration on January 2, 2013, to provide WARN Act notices 60 days before that date to their workers employed under government contracts funded from sequestrable accounts. The answer to this question is 'no.' In fact, to provide such notice would be inconsistent with the purpose of the WARN Act." -
The excuse given for this is that despite the cuts that are currently law, it is not possible to WARN anyone of layoffs because no specific projects or contracts have been officially notified that they would be part of the spending cut. Plus, Congress MIGHT actually repeal sequestration.
5. Application of WARN Act to Potential Sequestration. Although it is currently known that sequestration may occur, it is also known that efforts are being made to avoid sequestration. Thus, even the occurrence of sequestration is not necessarily foreseeable. In addition, the sequester’s impact on particular accounts will depend at least in part on Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 funding that Congress has not yet enacted. Perhaps more importantly, Federal agencies also have some discretion in how to implement the required reductions if sequestration were to occur. Given that Federal agencies, including DOD, have not announced which contracts will be affected by sequestration were it to occur, and that many contracts may be completely unaffected, the actual contract terminations or cutbacks that will occur in the event of sequestration are unknown. Thus, in the absence of any additional information, potential plant closings or layoffs resulting from such contract terminations or cutbacks are speculative and unforeseeable. - US Govt Notice (PDF)
I have to admit that this makes sense. Yes thousands of people are going to get laid off. You know that you are going to be one of them. And yet, nobody will know for sure until the very last minute. That is, unless their employers send them a courtesy warning in advance of any mandated by the law. Apparently this is something that employers can do. Imagine if you as a taxpayer or as a business owner started behaving on how Congress might act. You might end up receiving a fine or worse some jail time. But the Government, the rules do not apply to them, ESPECIALLY if there is a Democrat in office. Not that rules apply to a Republican in office, it is just that the Democrats (and the media) are very vocal in making sure Republicans don't get away with breaking the laws.

Anyway, I suspect that is is just some wasteful posturing on behalf of a Government lackey who either is trying to keep the current president in office or truly believes that in this case it's perfectly OK not to tell people that they are going to be without a job shortly after the election.

What I would like to see is the DOD actually announce which programs they plan to cut because of sequestration. Then the pink slips can go out, as they should. (Note: I am not in support of suck cuts to our National Defense. As it is, the DOD was the only Government Dept that I know of that was actively cutting their spending before this mess. The ax needs to fall elsewhere.)
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