Even in light of the prospect of a 1.9 percent pay increase (whoopee) for federal employees, morale is low. It is not surprising in light of some of the other draconian steps regarding their wages, hours, and working conditions currently under consideration by their “bosses” in Congress. Here are a few reasons, reported in an article this morning in the Washington Post.
- Hiring freezes
On top of one of the first Executive Orders signed by the Tangerine Tyrant freezing hiring among “non-essential” federal workers (not including, of course, the military) the administration is expected to propose a $54 billion cut from the domestic discretionary budget leaving in jeopardy the critical missions of many government agencies and departments.
- Turning their health care system into a voucher system.
A top concern among both active and retired employees is the possibility that the highly regarded Federal Employees Health Benefits program will be degraded under a Congressional proposal to a voucher system that would grow with inflation — which sounds reasonable — until you realize federal employees would pay more out of pocket because “premiums grow significantly faster than inflation,” according to a Congressional Budget Office examination of the proposal. (Read: PAY CUT.)
- Reductions in retirement contributions
“Another high concern — reducing agency payments to federal retirement benefits while making feds contribute more. With no increase in benefits, this long-standing Republican scheme would amount to a pay cut. Federal employees fear that they will see it again. Yet another proposal to save retirement dollars at the expense of workers would base pensions on the average of the highest-paid five consecutive years of an employee’s federal career instead of the “high three,” effectively reducing retirement income. One more worry focuses on killing the defined-benefit federal pension for new employees and replacing it with a 401K-like defined contribution plan. That, too, would save Sam money while costing feds more.”
- Pay cuts
The anticipated $54 billion in reductions translates to a government-wide reduction in budget of 18% leading the Office of Management and Budget to suggest that agencies “prepare plans and calculate estimates on how it will reduce personnel” consistent with an 18 percent budget cut.
This is how corporate US institutions treat employees. Cut hours, cut pay, demand more work while maintaining customer service. One example that comes to mind is the regional bank–the largest in the county I grew up in. When Obamacare was passed, a loophole in employer-provided health benefits allowed employers to exempt part-time employees from the employer’s health care plans. What did the bank do? It immediately reduced most non-executive employees to part-time status.
He, like most of his fellow civil-service employees, had a mission: to make the lives of those he served better.
An old friend of mine, a retired major general in the Army National Guard, used to joke that federal employees were like the early missile systems: “Don’t work. Can’t fire ’em.” To be sure, in any workforce you will find slackers–those not performing up to standards. In the federal employment system, as in the majority of government systems on the local and state levels, you will find a civil service system which is designed to protect employee rights which typically govern wages, hours and working conditions.
These civil-service systems, akin to labor unions, prevent employers from discharging workers other than for “just cause.” These just cause requirements protect civil employees from being hired and fired at the whim of elected officials. It enables our government to function on a long-term basis, granting employees the security to serve their city, county, state, or nation without fear that the next elected official will sweep them out and replace them with their political cronies.
I have proudly served in the public sector for many years of my professional life: as a city attorney, as an assistant attorney general, and as an investigator of police misconduct for the city and County of San Francisco. My father, a farmer and rancher back in Oklahoma, served with the agricultural research service, an arm of the soil conservation service in the US Department of Agriculture, for about 20 years. It provided him enough income to keep the farm going during those times until he retired. It wasn’t easy work. A part of their mission was to assist farmers and ranchers and making sure that their land didn’t float away under heavy rain. On stormy nights he would get in his car, drive to the office and then drive to the nearest creek where he would hang from a gondola dropping various instruments into the rushing water to gauge temperature, speed, and sediment levels–all in the pouring rain and while dodging lightning bolts. He, like most of his fellow civil-service employees, had a mission: to make the lives of those he served better.
This Republican-controlled government has completely lost sight of service to the public that elected them to their jobs, to their cushy lifetime pensions, to their government-subsidized healthcare, and to their lifetime salaries.
So, the next time you get an email from a left-wing group asking you to sign a petition to oppose this right wing, brown boot authoritarian nationalistic propaganda, sign the damned petition. Go to the resource section of this blog where you can find the telephone numbers for your elected representatives on the local, state, and national levels and call them to voice your displeasure what is happening in our country.
Just thought you’d want to know.