The Department of Agriculture previously announced its intention to move two small agencies to Kansas City. As some would expect, the plans have been controversial, in part because it will require at least some of the employees currently employed in the agencies to move in order to keep their jobs.
Reducing the Buyout Offer
The latest twist in the project is that the agency is reducing the amount of the buyout available to employees who are leaving rather than moving. An announcement to agency employees regarding the buyout amount reads as follows:
This is to inform you that your application for the Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) has been APPROVED. Due to the volume of applications and in an effort to afford all employees who applied the opportunity to receive the incentive payment, the amount approved for all applicants has changed from $25,000 to $10,000.
In other words, there were a number of employees who were planning to leave the agency rather than move, so the buyout amount was reduced to $10,000 instead of $25,000.
Those that are interested in the buyout (called a Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment) have to return the agency form by 5 PM on August 26th.
Impacted employees who plan to retire have until September 9th to complete the retirement package to avoid delays in processing the retirement application and the incentive payment.
Less Financial Incentive to Stay
Clearly, the reduced amount of the buyout offer makes the financial incentive to give up a job much less attractive.
A press release from AFGE reads:
Employees now have less than a week to decide whether to accept the reduced buyout, which also bars them for working at another federal agency for five years. Many of these employees have spent their careers devoted to agricultural research and furthering their agencies’ missions, and they deserve to be treated better than this.
In effect, if a person is planning on going to work for another federal agency, and that person thinks he or she has a good chance of landing another federal job in the near future, taking the buyout would not make sense. In effect, reducing the amount of the buyout will put more pressure on employees to accept relocating to Kansas City.
Financial Incentive to Move
AFGE and USDA have reached an agreement providing financial incentives to move. For employees who do relocate, the agreement between the agency and union provides a financial incentive equal to one month’s salary.
Employees who are moving and accept the financial incentive have to agree to remain at the new location in Kansas City for at least one year. The additional amount would be paid after a period of acceptable performance in the new location for six months. Also, the agency will allow relocating employees to work remotely until at least the end of December.
Employees who are hesitant to move out of fear of the unknown including whether they will like the new area or how much they will regret leaving the Washington area because they like it may reconsider the actual financial cost of not moving. Other reasons for staying in the DC area, such as remaining close to family and friends or difficulty in moving older children who like their schools may be more persuasive.
So, the continuing arguments going back and forth about moving agencies out of the Washington area continue for a while longer. Whether this latest twist will make much difference in decisions made by individual employees about moving, or whether this will have any impact on the agency decision to move employees to another region, remains to be seen.