Washington D.C. – Preserving the civil service as an institution based on merit, offering competitive pay and benefits and effective employee engagement are keys to building and maintaining a highly skilled federal workforce, NTEU President Tony Reardon told Congress today.
In a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, Reardon also warned Congress that attacks on employees and their collective bargaining rights make federal employment less attractive.
“Imposing anti-worker policies that eliminate fair and equitable treatment and instead creates a culture of fear and mistrust is no way to attract and retain talented workers,” Reardon said.
The subcommittee hearing was about hiring challenges in the federal government.
“While many federal employees believe in government service and agency mission is often listed by employees as the number one reason they work for the federal government, massive pay disparities with the private sector undermine efforts to recruit and retain skilled individuals who are drawn to public service,” Reardon testified.
Currently the wage gap between federal employees and their private sector counterparts is more than 32 percent, and NTEU supports a House-passed pay raise of 3.1 percent for federal workers in 2020, including a 0.5 percent average increase for locality pay.
In addition to pay and benefits, Reardon outlined other incentives for federal employment, such as telework, paid family leave and a properly functioning Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, all of which improve the work-life balance for employees.
Reardon also explained how collective bargaining in the federal sector is beneficial to workers, agencies and taxpayers.
“Front-line employees and their union representatives have ideas and information that are essential to improving the delivery of quality government services to the public and through the collective bargaining process and the use of pre-decisional involvement, employees can have meaningful input resulting in better decision-making, more support for decisions, timelier implementation and better results for the American people,” Reardon said.
Among the obstacles to finding and keeping quality employees, Reardon said government shutdowns, forced relocations, pay freezes, disparaging remarks by elected officials, threats to retirement, cuts to benefits and infringements on collective bargaining “all make it harder to recruit a new generation of civil servants and have led talented federal employees to leave federal service.”
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.