The second part of the White House 2020 budget proposal released this week reaffirms the administration’s persistent, sprawling agenda to denigrate federal employees, shrink their paychecks and pensions and weaken their rights in the workplace. “Just like last year, I am appalled to see an administration put in writing so many different ways to attack its own employees,” said National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon. “Under the guise of ‘strengthening the federal workforce,’ this budget proposal would cut their take home pay, reduce their retirement benefits, expose them to partisan manipulation and make it harder to hire the talent we need to run our country.”
The proposed 2020 budget, which has already been declared untenable by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, erroneously claims that a pay freeze is in order because the current pay system is incapable of rewarding good job performance.
“The existing General Schedule includes mechanisms for rewarding high achievers and dealing with poor performers, but managers and supervisors lack the training to implement them,” Reardon said. “Punishing frontline workers with a pay freeze because their bosses don’t use the tools they are given is especially cruel.”
Five separate retirement proposals – increasing employee contributions, eliminating or reducing cost of living increases, eliminating supplementals for early retirees, changing the benefit formula, and reducing the interest rate for certain Thrift Savings Plan investments – amount to a $177 billion cut in benefits over 10 years.
“This proposal doesn’t just hurt current employees, it weakens our nation’s commitment that federal employees retire with a modest level of economic security that prevents them from living out their years in poverty,” Reardon said. “Federal employees have already given up $200 billion in pension cuts since 2011. No more.”
A new, sixth pension reform would eliminate Federal Employees Retirement System benefits for term employees – those who are hired for limited periods of up to four years – and instead give them only access to the Thrift Savings Plan. NTEU is concerned that this proposal opens the door to more federal employees being limited to only defined contribution retirement plans. And it is another worrisome sign that the administration intends to rely more on term employees instead of career employees who are entitled to the full range of benefits.
Furthermore, the president released additional proposals affecting the civil service, including significant changes to employee collective bargaining and due process rights. These changes, among other things, would limit the ability of employees to file grievances, shorten timeframes for employees to appeal agency actions, and allow the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to extend probationary periods for certain employees.
The documents released Monday include some alarming details on how proposed agency funding cuts would impact the workforce. At the IRS, the administration’s proposed $11.47
billion in base funding would result in about 1,600 fewer full-time employees and lower the level of service provided to taxpayers by phone from 75 percent to 68 percent.
At the Environmental Protection Agency, the 30 percent budget reduction could would force layoffs of more than 1,500 employees agency-wide.
At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the budget recommends putting the agency under the regular appropriations process, an idea that has already been rejected by Congress because it would harm the agency’s independence and weaken its ability to hold financial institutions accountable for wrongdoing.
The proposed 11 percent cut at the Department of Energy would eliminate the Advanced Projects Research Administration which is responsible for more than $250 million in cutting-edge research every year. It would also slash $1 billion from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, which oversees research and development of renewable energy projects and provides energy assistance to low income households.
“NTEU will work in Congress to change the direction, and approach federal employees as assets to their agencies and our country. That means a fair pay increase, retaining employee rights and benefits and providing the resources they need to get the job done,” he added. “It is time to invest in the federal workforce and this budget proposal falls far short of that goal.”