Panel: ATF not required to pay teleworkers' broadband costs

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will not be required to pay for half the broadband costs for its teleworkers following a Federal Services Impasses Panel (FSIP) decision.

FSIP rejected National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) arguments that the costs for teleworkers’ broadband could be offset by potential savings in office space.

“Given ATF’s unique circumstances, the expense cannot be offset through ‘office space cost avoidance,’” according to the decision, which H. Joseph Schimansky, executive director of FSIP, wrote.

NTEU asked the panel for assistance with this issue, noting that it and ATF had reached an impasse in deciding which organization would pay for telework costs. The union said that the annual cost of bandwidth for the agency would be $225,000, and cited ATF’s $923.6 million fiscal 2006 budget to indicate that the amount was not unreasonable.

ATF said its teleworkers would “spend approximately 70 percent of their time in the field at licensees’/permittees’ premises performing inspections” and would not make use of an Internet connection for much of their work.

NTEU President Colleen Kelley said she strongly disagreed with the panel’s decision, and cited apparent inequities in ATF’s telework policy.

“What’s particularly irksome is that ATF covers the cost of high-speed Internet access for its nonbargaining unit employees,” Kelley said in a statement. The union would “continue to press for a fair and equitable distribution of expenses for employees who work outside the office,” she said.

This decision follows a mid-May deal between NTEU and ATF to establish a telework program, which was result of a 12-hour conference involving the agency, the union and FSIP.

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