NTEU submitted testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s first hearing on the President’s Management Agenda.
Unveiled in March, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)’s plan seeks to “modernize” federal personnel laws and policies, by drastically cutting federal employee compensation (in the areas of pay, retirement and health care insurance benefits, and leave), overhauling performance management and hiring, limiting collective bargaining, and making it easier to discipline and fire employees.
In its testimony, NTEU made clear our strong opposition to the Administration’s management plan, and detailed the devastation that pay freezes and take-home pay cuts, reductions to current and future pensions, and lower quality and more expensive health insurance would have on middle-class federal workers. Additionally, NTEU’s statement highlights our concerns with the Administration’s stated goal of ‘rebalancing’ labor-management relations, and its belief that collective bargaining and employee due process rights supposedly stand in the way of effective performance management and agency mission accomplishment.
While the plan cites its goal “to improve service delivery to the American people,” these human resource policies will only serve to further dismantle federal agencies, which are already facing great challenges from funding and staffing reductions, hiring freezes, reorganizations, and negative federal employee rhetoric. And, of course, the plan will only make it harder and harder for agencies to recruit and retain skilled employees with a race-to-the-bottom approach for compensation and benefits. Furthermore, employees and retirees would be left with little to no income security despite their years of dedicated service to the federal government.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) witness, Director Jeff Pon, who recently transmitted legislative language to Congress based upon the Administration’s proposals to slash retirement benefits (by increasing FERS employee contributions by 6 to 7 percent, using a high-5 pension calculation formula instead of the current high-3 for CSRS and FERS, eliminating the FERS supplemental payments for individuals who retire before 62, and eliminating FERS retiree COLAs and reducing CSRS retiree COLAs), stated that “our retirement system is out-of-whack,” and then incorrectly detailed that the retiree COLAs he is asking Congress to eliminate and reduce are based on specific locality, rather national inflation, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the proposal as well as its devastating impact on individuals. The Director also discussed his overarching view that federal agencies should be seeking to shift to the so-called gig-economy by employing temporary workers who will rotate between agencies and the private-sector, and that the current federal personnel laws are antiquated and stymie innovation.
Additionally, several Committee members raised their concerns with bargaining unit employees’ ability to challenge management disciplinary decisions, and the availability of official time for union representatives, stating a need for more official time data and oversight, as well as a need to “streamline” employee removals, and to extend recent VA personnel changes, that have limited collective bargaining rights for frontline employees in the areas of performance and discipline, to other agencies. The OMB and OPM witnesses both agreed additional official time data would be helpful “to shed a light on how it’s being used and how it’s not.” However, other legislators highlighted the availability of existing data, focusing on a need for the federal government as an employer to support organized labor, and stated that given already narrow federal collective bargaining rights, official time is warranted and needed. Several members also detailed the devastating impact the Administration’s proposed pay and retirement cuts would have on today’s workforce, as well as its future employees, and the ability of agencies to employ a quality workforce.