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PYONGTAEK, South Korea — The union for Defense Department employees locked in a curfew-related pay dispute with the U.S. military in South Korea has assigned one of its seasoned labor representatives to handle its case, a union official said Thursday.

The National Federation of Federal Employees has assigned Steven Flory, a business representative with its national headquarters, to take the union’s next steps in the dispute, said Jeffrey L. Meadows, president of the union’s Local 1363.

Flory will represent nine Defense Department civilians who contend U.S. Forces Korea owes them back wages for keeping a USFK curfew, said Meadows, who since March had represented the employees.

But Meadows is an engineer with limited expertise in labor-management relations, he said. “… I’m a local representative but I don’t have that kind of experience so we felt that an issue of this size requires somebody with a little more experience.”

No date for Flory’s arrival has been set yet but it could be sometime later this month, Meadows said.

No further talks between the two sides are currently scheduled, he said.

The employees are seeking four to five months of “standby pay” because of a USFK curfew imposed in September. At that time, USFK commander Gen. Leon J. LaPorte began requiring USFK personnel and invited contractors to keep to a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. It later was amended to midnight to 5 a.m. The mandatory compliance requirement for civilians was lifted March 1.

The union moved that month to recover back pay on grounds the curfew confined the employees to their quarters and put them in standby status.

In April, the U.S. military denied the claim, saying the union had failed to show in detail how the nine employees were “restricted to living quarters, had activities substantially limited, and were required to remain in a state of readiness.” It also held that the claim was not filed within the proper time limit.

“The issue deserves the professional level of adjudication that somebody like Mr. Flory can provide,” Meadows said. “He’s a salaried employee of the union back there. … So I feel much better that the playing field has been leveled.”

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