Agents Could Lose Thousands in Salary; CBP Proposal May Spur Exodus

Article excerpt

Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have proposed a new salary plan for Border Patrol agents that could cost them an average of $7,000 a year in lost pay and spark what some say would be an exodus of veteran agents to higher-paying agencies.

The still-pending proposal by CBP to convert Border Patrol agents from a pay program known as Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime (AUO) to an alternative plan called Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) has been described by rank-and-file agents as unwarranted and comes at a time the agency has significantly increased its presence along the Southwest border to combat skyrocketing crime by brutal drug cartels.

Every day, Border Patrol agents along America's border put their lives on the line to keep our nation safe, said Chris Bauder, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents more than 17,000 of the agency's non-supervisory agents. They deserve the pay they receive, and any reduction is an insult to the efforts and sacrifices of the men and women of the Border Patrol.

Mr. Bauder, a veteran agent himself, said the compensation reform package offered by CBP would force agents to work for free by eliminating pay for any work beyond 10 hours, the normal workday; would cost a GS-12 agent between $6,600 and $8,600 in salary a year, depending on their experience; and would lower the already very low morale within the agency.

He said the proposal means that an agent currently maintaining an average of 20 hours of AUO per pay period and currently covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) would make $86,011 per year versus $92,661 per year, regardless of how many overtime hours they worked.

Demanding that employees work for free is grossly unfair to front-line Border Patrol agents and their families, Mr. Bauder said. "No group of federal law enforcement officers has been called upon to sacrifice more than front-line Border Patrol agents.

If this plan were to go into effect, there would be very little incentive for Border Patrol agents to continue their employment with the Border Patrol, he said.

Border Patrol agents are trained and certified as law enforcement personnel, and often are recruited by other federal policing agencies.

Because of the nature of the job, most Border Patrol agents average at least two hours of overtime a day and the agency, as part of its ongoing recruitment effort, has promised what it called an excellent opportunity for overtime pay.

AUO covers employees in positions that require substantial amounts of irregular, unscheduled overtime work that cannot be controlled administratively, with the employee generally being responsible for recognizing, without supervision, circumstances that require them to remain on duty. …