Washington, D.C. – The President’s Management Agenda is not a strategic realignment of the federal workforce but a systematic assault on middle class federal workers that would chase talented civil servants into the private sector and degrade the federal government’s ability to serve taxpayers, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon told Congress today.
The agenda, released by the administration in March, calls for cutting the paychecks, benefits and workplace rights of federal employees around the country, which would ruin the workforce’s historic standing as merit-based and non-partisan and weaken efforts to recruit and retain skilled workers.
“With agencies not able to compete with the private sector on pay and salaries, retirement, health care, and leave are its chief recruitment and retention tools, and actively engaging in a race to the bottom in these areas will do great damage to the quality and skill of the federal workforce,” Reardon wrote in testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “I urge members of this Committee to reject these proposals and instead find ways to increase the federal government’s ability to be an employer of choice.”
Reardon’s testimony was submitted to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which conducted a hearing Wednesday on the President’s Management Agenda.
NTEU disagrees with the agenda’s premise that federal employees are overpaid and that their salaries are not tied to performance. On the contrary, the Federal Salary Council’s analysis of government data shows federal employees on average make 31.86 percent less than their private sector counterparts. And the existing General Schedule has built-in provisions for rewarding employees for exceptional performance. Any employee, regardless of job title, should be eligible for such merit raises, not just a select few, as the agenda recommends.
“A pay system that limits compensation to randomly-selected occupations will prohibit agencies from executing a whole-of-government approach to operations, will threaten agency performance, and will risk disparate treatment of its workforce,” Reardon wrote.
A pay freeze, as the administration has proposed for 2019, is a surefire way to further demoralize the existing workforce and discourage future applicants. NTEU instead supports legislation calling for a 3 percent increase next year.
The administration’s hit list of retirement cuts will slash the paychecks of current and future federal workers and reduce all pensions, a poisonous combination for anyone hoping to recruit young new talent to the workforce. The cuts will also worsen the nation’s retirement crisis, in which 62 percent of working households age 55-64 have grossly inadequate retirement savings set aside.
“To be clear, the overall goal of these changes is to make federal workers pay more for their retirement benefits while getting less, further contributing to the retirement insecurity of the nation,” Reardon wrote. “These middle-class workers can ill afford a six to seven percent pay cut or a retirement benefit that fails to keep up with inflation, and ultimately these changes will require them to work longer at agencies into their senior years.”
On health care, the administration recommends lowering the employer contribution based on the type of insurance plan an employee chooses.
“If the Administration’s plan is approved, federal workers will be forced to move to cheaper plans that provide less coverage and fail to meet the health care needs of their families or drop coverage all together,” Reardon wrote. “The federal government should aim to be a model employer rather than risk the health and financial security of its employees.”
At every turn, the agenda cloaks its reforms as ideal for improved recruitment and retention when, in reality, they will deter people from careers in public service.
Finally, the agenda makes plain that the administration is intent on rolling back due process for federal workers and weakening the ability of federal sector unions to represent frontline employees.
“Undermining the ability for career, non-partisan civil servants to appeal adverse employment actions turns federal workers into political employees who are hired and fired based on personal loyalty oaths, not their ability to do a job and makes them unwilling and unable to come forward to disclose government waste, fraud, and abuse,” Reardon wrote. “A merit-based civil service that works for the people, and not expressly for one individual, is a cornerstone of our republic, and eliminating the ability of employees to challenge a removal, would threaten our government, and the public’s confidence that employees’ service is performed in the interest of our nation, and not for personal gain or interests.”
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 32 federal agencies and departments.