WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. government labor unions and agency managers say they will negotiate to make the terms of forced public employee furloughs "fair across the board."
Unions and management at the Labor Department are scheduled to meet Monday to begin five days of bargaining over furloughs scheduled to start April 1, The Washington Post reported.
"The goal here is to be fair across the board," department spokesman Stephen Barr said, "to deliver the mission and not let it get harmed."
The furloughs mean government employees will be forced to take unpaid days from work -- as many as 22 a year -- saving the government about $85 billion.
This would be the first time furloughs were imposed by the government with no chance of workers recouping the lost pay.
"We very much regret that furloughs will be enacted," said Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, a Defense Department spokeswoman. "We're concerned about the degradation of the mission and the direct effects on our civilian colleagues and their families."
Employees must be notified of furloughs at least 30 days in advance, and they have seven days to contest furloughs.