For the federal workforce, the Trump administration’s budget proposal for 2020 reads like a roadmap to civil service demise, with calls for cuts to annual leave and retirement security, pay freezes and a weakening of collective bargaining rights.
|The Trump administration’s budget for 2020 includes a number of anti-worker proposals that could harm an already embattled federal workforce.
“Nothing this administration does or proposes is designed to enhance the quality of life or working conditions for our federal employees,” said IBEW Government Employees Department Director Paul O’Connor. “To the contrary, each action is dedicated to accelerate the demise of our national federal workforce.”
Many of the anti-worker proposals are not new – the administration has tried multiple times to freeze pay raises – and the budget as a whole is unlikely to pass, given the Democratic control of the House of Representatives. Still, the document serves as a list of priorities and in many respects, values, of the executive branch.
“Clearly the administration learned nothing from the disastrous 35-day partial government shutdown,” said National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon in Government Executive. “The American people know full well that federal agencies need resources and federal employees deserve a fair paycheck, and this budget proposal—essentially a blueprint for how to ruin the civil service—provides neither.”
In addition to calling for a pay freeze, the budget contains a number of proposed changes to the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System. These include increasing employee contributions, eliminating cost-of-living adjustments, changing annuity calculations for retirement from using the highest three years of work to five – effectively lowering the amount someone would get – and eliminating a supplement for those forced to retire early.
According to Vox, each federal worker would lose about $75,000 in retirement savings.
“After decades of stagnant wages and degradation of benefits in the private sector, our government is now saying we must bring the federal sector in line with the private sector, implying it’s a matter of fairness, when it’s really a death spiral for middle-class America,” O’Connor said. “Translation: pay more, receive less, and each year fall further and further behind – in perpetuity.”
Considered part of a strategy to “modernize the civil service,” the budget included a request for Congress to codify a 2018 executive order that has since been struck down by a federal court. The order attempted to shorten the firing process to 30 days in which an employee could improve their performance instead of the contractually agreed upon 120.
The administration is also trying to resurrect another invalidated executive order that would narrow the scope of grievance procedures for bargaining unit employees and reduce the overall number of paid leave days. As Government Executive reported, the new proposal would create one combined category of leave that employees could access while simultaneously reducing the total number of days off by an unspecified amount.
“Thankfully for federal employees and the American people, this budget is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia to the Washington Post. “Instead of recycling these tired and radical attacks on federal workers, the president should move expeditiously to implement the 1.9 percent pay increase Congress sent to his desk almost a month ago.”
The pay increase was part of the budget deal hashed out in February to fund the government until Sept. 30, but the administration has yet to actually pay its employees the higher rate, nor has it issued backpay from the January shutdown.
“We cannot look at Trump’s budget proposal as a stand-alone issue. It’s the latest in a long series of proposed budgets and legislation designed to demoralize and crush our national, federal workforce based on a false premise that federal employees are overpaid and underworked,” O’Connor said. “Shutdowns, furloughs, reduced retirement, reduced leave, pay freezes, reducing employee access to unions, it’s all part-and-parcel to making federal employment unattractive or worse, unacceptable.”
O’Connor says the IBEW is continuing to fight back against the Trump administration’s relentless assaults.
“We will speak as one, with clarity and conviction to overcome and prevail,” O’Connor said. “Workplace rights and labor rights will remain “rights” if, and only if, we defend them as courageously and zealously as did our forefathers and foremothers who gained them in the first place.”