Workforce

Unions expecting pay freeze, workforce cuts in Trump budget

shutterstock image By enzozo; photo ID: 319763930 

With the president's fiscal year 2020 budget planned for release March 11, federal unions are bracing for proposed cuts to retirement benefits and agency size, as well as a civilian pay freeze.

The expectation, according to union officials, is that Trump's fiscal year 2020 budget will propose the same workforce cuts that were included in the FY 2019 request.

Last year's proposed cuts included eliminating cost-of-living adjustments for Federal Employee Retirement System retirees; recalculating the pension formula from the average of an employee's three highest salary years to the five highest; and increasing employee retirement contributions by one percent per year.

Jason Briefel, executive director of the Senior Executives Association, said the budget to be released Monday "will have all the same workforce cut proposals as before."

Briefel said he does not expect aggressive reductions in staffing levels to make it into the budget request. However, he did add that the proposed reorganization of the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration was not dead and could very well appear in the budget.

Dan Blair, who served as the acting director and deputy director of OPM during the George W. Bush administration, said he was "hearing to expect the same" sorts of proposals, including the proposed merger of GSA and OPM.

OMB did not confirm whether workforce cuts and a pay freeze would be included in the budget.

John Hatton, director of legislative and political affairs for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, concurred with Blair. While he couldn't confirm that such cuts and a pay freeze would be included in the budget, he said, "that is what we're expecting."

"Generally, these budgets, unless there's some kind of strategic shift, remain the same," Hatton added.

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Wednesday that he also was "concerned we're going to see much of the same" in the fiscal year 2020 budget.

The proposals to cut workforce benefits and freeze pay seem unlikely to win congressional approval, especially with the Democrats now in control of the House of Representatives. Even last Congress, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian feds. And the administration may face opposition from lawmakers and union groups alike over proposals to cut benefits that would apply to the current workforce.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said he would "fight these misguided assaults on our federal workers."

"Congress was absolutely clear in the last government funding bill that it rejected the President's pay freeze for federal employees," he said. "Rather than attacking these public servants, the administration should move expeditiously to implement the 1.9% pay increase we passed."

Earlier this week, Democratic lawmakers questioned the administration about when the 1.9 percent raise signed into law earlier this year will start showing up in feds' paychecks, and asked the president to issue an executive order authorizing the pay bump.

Briefel suggested that, to have a real chance of becoming law, such benefit changes would likely have to be written for the future "as opposed to applying to the current workforce."

"That's a more appropriate conversation a lot of us would be more willing to entertain," he said. "If we want to make sure government can change it for the future, great. But we shouldn't be in a race to the bottom."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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