Much ink was spilled earlier this month about the plight of federal workers who were furloughed due to the budget impasse. One federal employee union even bafflingly likened its members to “indentured servants.” But now, quietly, federal workers are receiving full pay for the shutdown period, whether they worked or not. In fact, some furloughed employees will receive special overtime and holiday premiums on top of their regular paychecks, just as long as they were scheduled to work overtime or on Columbus Day.If compensation for federal employees were barely adequate as it is, adding unpaid leave might create a significant recruit-and-retain problem for the government. However, as noted in a previous post, the average federal employee receives a considerably better compensation package than similarly-skilled private-sector workers.
Of course, unpaid leave can be disruptive for people, especially those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck. But rather than turning the unpaid leave into paid vacation, Congress should have required federal agencies to expand overtime opportunities or reduce future vacation to let employees work for the lost income. A firm "work-for-pay" mindset would have better served taxpayers.