Lisa Foust, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees Local 178 at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Edgewood, said she has been getting questions at union meetings about phased retirement for the past several months.

Her local has about 1,500 members, many of whom are of retirement age. Foust estimates that about one-third of the members would opt for phased retirement if it were available.

"It's a great tool for workers to … get a small paycheck, instead of having to get a part-time job, and still be able to pass knowledge on to the ones that are left behind," she said.

Union representatives said some workers have concerns, such as what happens to their health insurance if they go part time. Zawodny said health insurance won't change under phased retirement.

David Snell, director of federal benefit services at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said he expects it will take time for the concept to catch on.

"The nature of most employees in the government is rather conservative, especially given the economic situation as it is," said Snell, whose association represents more than 270,000 members.

"Those who are eligible may just stay another year as an employee full time in order to make sure their finances are in good shape," he said. "Once we get back to better times, they will take a more serious look at it."

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

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