Washington, D.C.—A National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) survey of federal workers is showing clearly the havoc the government shutdown, coupled with sequestration cuts, is generating among federal workers, NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said today.
“This unnecessary shutdown is causing enormous and real problems for our members, not to mention an unbearable level of anxiety and tension,” she said. “Even after it ends, this shutdown will have lasting effects on federal workers and federal agencies.”
Tens of thousands of NTEU members are furloughed because of the shutdown; other thousands are working, having being declared ‘excepted’ by their agencies, but they are doing so without pay. They will be paid, but not until the shutdown ends, a circumstance which is generating its own level of anxiety, Kelley said.
The survey, which sought information on the shutdown and on the effects of sequestration-forced budget cuts on their agencies, was emailed to NTEU members.
More than 400 NTEU members responded, with more than 84 percent saying they are furloughed—including 71 percent who said they previously have had to serve unpaid furlough days because of sequestration.
Those surveyed detailed the way the shutdown and uncertainty about a paycheck has impacted them and their families financially:
• 84 percent said they have cut back on necessities;
• 72 percent said they are getting further into debt;
• 70 percent said they are having difficulty making ends meet;
• 57 percent said they have contacted their creditors to let them know they are furloughed;
• 48 percent said they are delaying medical treatment to save money.
Here is a sampling of the responses:
“If it wasn’t bad enough that I was furloughed, my husband lost his job the Friday before. We are afraid that our finances may never recover.”
“We have already drained our savings by me and my spouse having to take multiple sequestration furlough days prior to the shutdown.”
“I am beside myself. I will not be able to pay my bills on time. I have never done this before.”
“I will be homeless if the government does not open soon, or I will die without my medications.”
The crisis budgeting resulting in the 14-day government shutdown could impact the government’s ability to retain and recruit workers in the future. Of the federal workers surveyed, 67 percent said they would not recommend working for the government.
Said one IRS worker, “The previous [sequestration] furloughs affected me and I was just recovering from those. This furlough has a huge impact that will carry over into the new year for me. Perhaps federal service is not the great opportunity I once thought it was.”
Another has started a job search: “My job requires me, as a federal employee, to pay all my bills, or termination can happen. Therefore, I have no choice but to look for a job in private industry to leave my federal government job so that I can support my family.”
Once the shutdown ends, workers expressed concerns about being able to catch up on the work. Said one employee, “The projects and deadlines that I have in place will take several months to catch up on and the trust of the American people is gone.”
And, said one IRS customer service representative, “When we get back to work, we will have to deal with very angry taxpayers on the phone.”
One Customs and Border Protection Officer, who is working without being paid stated, “I, like, all my fellow officers, do what we do, to protect our nation and be able to provide for our families, yet they do not see the sacrifices we make to keep our nation safe, while they play politics with our families’ well-being.”
President Kelley emphasized the message she has been advancing since before the Oct. 1 shutdown—namely, that federal employees want to work.
“Whatever their job, the goal of every federal employee I know is to serve the public,” she said. “Not being able to do it through no fault of their own is sad for our country and extremely frustrating for those who chose public service as a career.”
NTEU is the nation’s largest independent federal union, representing 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.