Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Money Trail

Back around 2008, while I was a contractor for a company supporting the Air Force....I had an associate contractor who lucked out and got offered a GS job at Stuttgart.  It was a GS-13 job, with housing included ($35k-more or less, tax-free).  He was all happy....being able to leave our lousy company.  So he gave notice, and packed up.

The next week, he arrives at Stuttgart and begins to in-process.  Somewhere along that first day....some HR person wakes up and notes that he is a local hire.  She invokes the funny rule set by housing pay.  My associate suddenly wakes up and realizes that housing costs in Stuttgart are significant and even with GS-13 pay....he really needs the $35k.  A long discussion ensues, and he's screwed over by the law.

So my associate packed up, retreated back to Ramstein, and was able to get his old job back and get back into his old place.  Six to twelve months later, he got another GS job offer in Nebraska and left Germany.

After that experience, I kinda knew the local hire rule.  The funny thing is.....most HR people didn't know it.

So from 2008 to 2012, things kinda bumped along and EUCOM figured out that they had not just dozens but several hundred folks getting housing pay....when they were local hires.

How did this start up?  Well....over the past decade, a number of folks got offered contractor jobs....arrived in Europe, and found the company that they hired up be a lousy situation.  So they naturally figured out how to find another contract and get a better deal.  And then they would bump into a GS situation, apply and get that job.  The law was made in some way to prevent people from jumping around.  Don't ask why or what drove Congress to make such a law....they just did.

This week.....EUCOM got around to "fixing" their mess.  They've cut off housing pay for several hundred folks.  It's missing from their pay. These folks will pay the rent...out of their regular least until they can figure a way out of this mess.  That's probably $1,500 a month that they need to find and utilize.  Forget about summer vacations.

There's a open situation where they can apply for a waiver...for twelve months, but that's a one-time deal and no real promises if the waiver will be signed.

What happens?  I'm guessing by the end of May...half of the people affected will be pushing resumes out to folks in the US and trying to get the heck out of Europe.  At least two hundred positions open up by early July.  Court cases will brew for several years as people try to get money back from the federal government.  And the HR idiots responsible?  They quietly move onto other jobs and no one remembers much of anything.