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President says he will veto compensatory time bill

President Clinton on Saturday threatened to veto a GOP bill letting workers choose between overtime pay and time off.

The GOP's compensatory time bill, narrowly passed by the House last week, could lead to coercion and rob workers of due pay, Clinton said.

"There are no effective safeguards to stop an employer from telling an employee who needs a paycheck more than family time that he or she has no choice," Clinton said Saturday in his weekly radio address.

Clinton and congressional Republicans agree in concept that workers should be able to choose compensatory time off instead of pay for overtime work.

But the president, who asked for what he called a "flex-time law" during his re-election campaign, supports a Democratic bill addressing labor unions' fears of coercion by management. He also wants an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act to give workers three unpaid days off a year for family obligations.

"Let's pass comp-time legislation, but let's do it right," the president said.

The issue, framed as a way to give working parents more time with their children, has been a top priority of Congress' Republican majority as it looks for ways to build its party's appeal among working women.

Those women, almost a third of the electorate, handed 57 percent of their votes to Democratic House candidates last year.

Clinton said that the GOP plan "could actually leave working families worse off than today."

He warned House Speaker Newt Gingrich of his veto intent in a letter last week and reiterated Saturday: "I will have to veto any legislation that fails to guarantee real choice for employees (and) real protection against employer abuse."

The House compensatory time bill would amend the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which covers 70-million hourly wage workers and guarantees them 1{ times regular wages for every hour worked beyond a 40-hour week.

Workers covered by the law can't waive their right to overtime pay or trade it for another benefit, such as paid vacation. In one exception, companies are allowed to offer, or force, compensatory time as long as it is taken during the same pay period that the overtime occurs.

The GOP bill would allow employers to form agreements with employees, letting them choose money or time off as compensation for overtime work. Employers could opt not to offer comp time, and workers could change their minds about taking it.