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Social Security braces for possible shutdown, furloughs

Feb. 17, 2011 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY AND Comments
In an e-mail, Reginald Wells, Social Security Administration chief human capital officer, offered an early retirement option to the entire SSA work force.
In an e-mail, Reginald Wells, Social Security Administration chief human capital officer, offered an early retirement option to the entire SSA work force. (Federal Times)

The Social Security Administration on Feb. 17 told the American Federation of Government Employees that it wants to start bargaining over how it would enact a furlough.

Jay Clary, SSA's acting associate commissioner, told AFGE that the agency has not yet decided to furlough employees, but that it wants to start figuring out arrangements in case lawmakers order a governmentwide furlough or in case budget negotiations in Congress fall apart and the government shuts down.

SSA Chief Human Capital Officer Reginald Wells said the agency has largely planned who would make up a "skeleton crew" that would have to keep working during a shutdown. Most of those employees would have to maintain computer systems, facilities, and other elements of SSA's infrastructure, or provide security at buildings.

Wells said SSA is already talking about how it would notify employees and union officials about a shutdown. SSA leaders are also meeting with union leaders through labor-management forums to brief them about possible scenarios.

"Discussions [about how to implement a possible shutdown] are happening at a very high level on a regular basis these days," Wells said.

SSA said negotiations must begin by March 22.

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