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Reduction in Force: It’s about the position

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Though facing a layoff is never fun, the Civilian  Personnel Section is doing all it can to help place and assist affected civilian employees keep jobs and find the help they need in the midst of a civilian layoff, referred to as "Reduction in Force."

Col. Doug Schiess, 21st Space Wing Commander, and Sharon Bowman, chief of affirmative employment with the 21st Space Wing Civilian Personnel Section, led a town hall meeting Jan. 28 in the base auditorium to focus on the RIF and address questions people might have concerning the action.

The biggest questions revolved around the timing of notifications for those affected and the process of being located in a new position. Schiess said everyone who is getting a notification will have received it by Feb. 2. This falls within the required 60-day notice to meet the April 4 deadline to have all overage employees reassigned, changed to lower grades, or in the worst case, separated.

"Our goal is to get everyone in the right place doing the right job," said Schiess. "It may not happen, but that's the goal."

The RIF was officially authorized on Jan. 6, Schiess said. Going back to 2013, 145 positions were identified as overage positions, but through various restructuring initiatives all but 24 of those employees have been placed or voluntarily separated in some way.

Schiess said he knows it is a stressful time for people who receive notices and that he sympathizes with all affected.

"Let me remind you that I am fully engaged in ensuring that this RIF has the least amount of impact as possible and I strongly encourage managers and supervisors to modify or waive qualifications for vacancies whenever possible to maximize placement of our affected personnel," he said.

Bowman said all employees who are in a position identified for abolishment have been notified.

"This RIF process will provide those employees a way ahead and hopefully relief from the uncertainty they've been experiencing," she said.

The CPS will continue to try and find placement for those employees who have been notified for as long as they can. For employees separating, they will continue to look for placements for up to two years after the separation date.

Bowman said RIF regulations determine if someone keeps a position or has rights to a different one, a practice known as bumping.

"We have been highly successful in placing the majority of our displaced employees through the pre-RIF process by reassigning employees to vacant positions at the same grade or pay. These positions may have been in the same or in a different classification series or line of work," Bowman said.

Bowman said her office is actively pursuing this approach for all displaced personnel. There are some benefits to having a RIF for employees placed into positions at lower grades. Before the RIF, people could only be placed through reassignments. Now employees can be placed in lower-graded positions and are entitled to retain the higher grade for two years and retained pay afterword if they completed at least 52 consecutive weeks at the higher grade. 

"All entitlements including pay, retirement, life insurance, eligibility for training, noncompetitive promotions, and within-grade increases remain unchanged when placed on grade retention," Bowman said.

Should grade retention expire, the employee would be eligible for indefinite pay retention if their pay cannot be set without a decrease in salary at the lower grade.

"If the employee is downgraded because of RIF, but doesn't meet the 52-week eligibility for grade retention, they will also be eligible for indefinite pay retention," said Bowman. "If the former rate of basic pay fits in the pay range for the lower-graded position, the pay will be set in the lower pay range without a reduction in pay and pay retention would cease."

The Priority Placement Program, Reemployment Priority List, and Interagency Career Assistance Plan are available to some personnel. There are a number of resources available to provide help and guidance wading through this information. First off, the CPS is available to assist anyone affected and can be contacted at 556-4775. There is also a RIF resources portal on the Office of Personnel Management website: http://www.opm.gov/reduction_in_force/.

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