Washington, D.C.—The end of the government shutdown is welcome, but federal employees return to a workplace unsure of what tomorrow holds—including the possibility of another shutdown in coming months, the leader of the nation’s largest independent union of federal workers said today.
“Another funding deadline looms,” said President Colleen M. Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), and the government “could shut down again in January or February or March or April.” She called this uncertainty “extremely detrimental to employee morale and the effective functioning of government.”
The NTEU leader spoke at a media briefing on a range of topics relating to the shutdown, and emphasized that NTEU’s post-shutdown priorities include getting federal employees paid for lost time as quickly as possible.
“Federal employees should not have to wait for the next scheduled paycheck to receive their back pay,” she said.
The union’s other immediate priorities include helping to mitigate any workplace issues the shutdown may have caused for employees and assisting them with issues arising from the lapse in appropriations; working with supporters in the House and Senate to ensure that any final fiscal 2014 agreement provides NTEU-represented agencies with sufficient resources to meet their missions—and that it ends sequestration; and, working to make sure federal employees are not harmed in any budget deal.
“They have suffered far too much already,” she said. “Federal employees are being used as pawns in a political game that must stop. Through no fault of their own, federal workers have been locked out of their offices and prevented from doing their work. Now, they face the prospect of returning to a workplace unsure of what tomorrow holds.”
President Kelley focused in large part on the impact of the shutdown on employees, their families and their agencies. “The economic and psychological costs of this shutdown have been huge,” she said. “The amount of time that has been wasted at every federal agency preparing for the shutdown, closing down and now ramping up is unconscionable,” she said.
Noting that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) work was at a standstill, for example, she pointed out that all toll-free phone lines and Taxpayer Assistance Centers were closed. “I expect that the IRS will be slammed with calls over the next few days,” she said. “Now, federal employees are being asked to step up and try to undo the harm.”
While noting that the shutdown provided a window for the American people to see the value of the services federal workers provide each day to help make the country strong, the NTEU leader expressed her “deep concern” about the long-term effect on employee retention and recruitment in the federal sector.
An NTEU survey of its members during the shutdown showed that 67 percent of respondents said they would not recommend the federal government as a career. That survey also showed the dramatic impacts not having a paycheck was causing both on federal employees and their local communities. “This will impact the economy in their communities as federal employees hold back on spending, even during the upcoming holiday season,” she said.
As the nation’s largest independent federal union, NTEU represents 150,000 employees in 31 agencies and departments.