The feud over furloughs continues to play out at Fort Lee with a federal complaint now filed against the post. This as Fort Lee officials announced Monday it will now extend hours at gates that were recently closed or reduced as a result of furloughs, but a local labor union says that's still not enough.
Some 500 active members with the labor union for civilian employees have had enough - not just with the furloughs but how they're being enforced. A federal complaint proves their frustration.
The "charges against an agency" document filed with the Federal Labor Relations authority lays out the concerns.
"When the employees leave the post, it's causing them a 20 to 30 minute delay to leave the post because it's congested," said Michael Castelle with the American Federation of Government Employees.
He is referring to the recent gate closures and reduction of access at other gates the post enforced as a result of federal mandates to cut costs. Even Fort Lee admits the decision to do so created traffic nightmares. Monday, the post said it will now extend hours at several gates. Before now, only two gates were open 24-7, creating daily traffic problems since the furloughs began this month.
Castelle says that's not enough.
"We didn't have any say. Management totally bypassed us. The change has been unilateral," he said.
Castelle claims that's a violation of federal statutes - protecting government workers against unfair labor practices. Fort Lee officials said they could not speak to the complaint directly, but did speak to the furlough issue in general.
"Decisions to reduce hours and services at the gates and other facilities were not made lightly. Installation leaders worked diligently to identify those changes needed to account for the reduced personnel hours caused by the civilian furlough, while minimizing the overall impact to services. However, there is only so much that can be done to minimize the impact of a 20 percent reduction in personnel hours among most of our civilian workforce," said Stephen Baker with Fort Lee's public affairs.
"What I'm wanting to see is management work with local unions to negotiate a less painful method for changing working conditions with employees….If we work together we can lessen the impact on everybody involved."
Barbara Kraft, regional director for the Federal Labor Relations Authority, says her group investigates claims like this by collecting evidence and statements from the union and the agency involved and typically they're able to determine if there is any wrongdoing within 30 days.
New hours at all Fort Lee gates are as follows:
• Lee Avenue: 6-9 a.m., 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and 4-6 p.m., Monday-Friday; closed weekends
• Mahone Avenue: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
• A Avenue: 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m., Monday-Friday; closed weekends
• Shop Road: 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., Monday-Friday (commercial vehicles only)
• Sisisky Boulevard: Always open (main gate)
• Jackson Circle: Always open to staff, residents and authorized guests
• Temple Avenue: 5-8:30 a.m., Monday-Thursday; closed Friday-Sunday
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