Union to supercommittee: Don't take it out on us

A coalition representing 4.6 million federal and postal workers and annuitants has sent a letter to the deficit reduction supercommittee urging the panel to reject proposals that would put further strains on the federal workforce.

The Federal-Postal Coalition—made up of 20 federal unions and professional organizations—wrote in response to two proposals from members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and two proposals from members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“Despite popular opinion, federal employees are not immune to the economic woes of this country,” said the letter. “Similar to their private-sector counterparts, federal workers are confronting financial hardships due to unemployed spouses, rising health care costs and general living expenses.”

The coalition asked the supercommittee to take into account the $60 billion federal workers already have contributed to the deficit reduction effort. “The fact that the pay freeze originated before the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 should not prevent its recognition as a price already paid by federal workers toward deficit reduction,” the letter said.

The group maintained that the list of recommendations forwarded last week by Senate Oversight Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Maine) “includes many damaging proposals to the compensation of the federal workforce.”

Among those Senate proposals, the coalition objected to measures that would extend the two-year pay freeze for another year, require higher employee contributions toward retirement, change the high-3 annuity calculation to a high-5, forbid employees from counting unused sick leave toward retirement and reduce workers’ compensation benefits.

The letter had kinder words for the chairman of the Senate workforce subcommittee, Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and the minority members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Those lawmakers have asked the supercommittee to turn back proposals that would further cut federal workers’ pay and benefits. The coalition also commended Akaka and the House Democrats for endorsing President Obama’s proposal to cap contractor compensation—an issue which it said Lieberman and Collins had failed to address sufficiently.

The coalition also asked the supercommittee to reject any budget proposals that call for “arbitrary downsizing of the federal civil service by proposing across-the-board workforce cuts without regard to agency mission.”

“Neither the president’s proposal nor the letter by Sens. Lieberman and Collins included such a damaging recommendation, and Sen. Akaka specifically proposed, instead, a 15 percent reduction overall in civilian and defense service contracts,” the letter said. “Downsizing of the federal workforce has historically led to wasteful privatization and the use of contractors to perform functions that are too important or sensitive to be outsourced at a much higher price.”

The coalition’s member organizations include the American Federation of Government Employees, Federally Employed Women, Federal Managers Association, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, Association of Postal Supervisors, National Federation of Federal Employees, National Treasury Employees Union, Professional Managers Association, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and 10 other unions and professional groups.

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