Why the employed “don’t get it”

Even as jobs get more unpleasant for the currently employed, there is a huge incentive to believe that unemployment won’t happen to them. The alternative is just too depressing.  It is easier for the currently employed to believe that something is wrong with the unemployed than to believe that they would be in a world of hurt if they had to find another job. I’m in the latter camp. I KNOW that I would be in a world of hurt if I had to find another job and could no longer work for the government in some capacity.

I work in a specialty that if all goes well, will be obsolete in about a decade.  The skills that one learns in engineering are highly transferrable, but people get nervous when they learned that you have spent your career in organophosphorus chemistry (insecticides, among other things), toxicology and related areas.  Had I published more papers, I might be all right, but what I can publish is restricted by my employer. I also don’t have the doctoral degree that is required to get an equivalent job in industry.

This isn’t “real” unemployment, but it looks like the furloughs are going to happen in federal government. There are some exceptions, but none of them apply to me.

People are really focusing on the “up to 11 days of unpaid leave” that Department of Defense employees will have between July and September, and have lost sight entirely of the fact that the sequestration required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 lasts another nine years. It is entirely possible that we will be going through this nonsense again, beginning in October.  For me, the furloughs mark a fundamental change in employee-employer relations between the federal government and its employees.  We’ve been under a pay freeze for three years, but most federal employees have been able to get longevity raises during that time.

What I find really interesting are the concessions that various credit unions are willing to make when people get furloughed. Several are willing to waive the premature redemption penalty on CDs,. which is 3 to 12 months of interest, depending on the maturity. I guess one faxes or mails in the final furlough letter, and you can cash in your CDs penalty-free, provided that you have any.

The question that the unemployed might well ask is why the steadily employed would require such a concession. Does losing a little over two weeks of pay make THAT MUCH of a difference? It isn’t entirely kindness on the part of the cedit union. If people leave the money in checking, the credit union goes from paying 1.5-3% to 0.1% interest, and it might turn out to be a wash or a slight profit for the credit union.

2 thoughts on “Why the employed “don’t get it””

  1. I thought that’s what credit unions were supposed to do: look out for their members, and cut them some slack in difficult times. With CDs paying 1-3%, the costs of being nice are minimal.

    For my part, the thought of 11 day’s unpaid furlough, in which one is excused from one’s duties, would be an improvement. When clients don’t pay on time, I have to take home half-sized paychecks, or worse. But the deadlines and deliverables don’t change.

    1. We’re being furloughed along with an expansion in the number of days and hours that the plant will be operating as a normal part of startup, so what we wind up with is uncompensated work for everyone (except the support contractors) DESPITE the law that says that federal employees are supposed to be compensated for every hour that they work. I’ve worked a ton of unpaid overtime during my career. This is normal for people who do test and evaluation work because you have to stay until the test is finished.

      True, the cost of waiving the premature redemption penalties is minimal, and it will probably take sending the furlough letter to the credit union to get the waiver. The sum of FICA, federal tax, and state tax is about 37% in my case, so the 20% pay cut for 11 weeks is closer to 12.6% because I don’t have to pay taxes on money that I don’t earn. I’m still putting close to 30% of gross pay into various retirement plans.

Leave a Reply