Trump Wants to Change How Federal Employees are Paid, 
Less for Those Considered Disloyal 
changes would be proposed as part of 2019 budget plan

By Josh Boak | AP February 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — The White House wants to change how more than 1.5 million federal workers are paid, emphasizing performance-based raises instead of the current system that generally increases pay based on tenure.

Senior officials with the Office of Management and Budget said these changes would be proposed as part of President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget plan, to be released Monday.

The officials insisted on anonymity to discuss details that have yet to be made public. The proposal would slow tenure-based increases, generating $10 billion over 10 years for performance-based payments.

The officials said much of the clerical work that has been the domain of the government can be automated, but there is a greater need for information technology workers and cyber security experts. Moving to performance-based pay means some federal workers with poor reviews could be fired, although the officials declined to say what that would mean for a government that employs 2.8 million workers.

The administration is also studying whether it’s better to recruit workers with a defined-contribution retirement plan, rather than a pension plan that supports workers who have decades of service in the federal government.

Some of these changes could require action by Congress, which last significantly updated civil service rules in 1978. The officials didn’t spell out the likelihood of Congress overhauling the civil service during an election year.

The shift to performance-based pay could dramatically change structure and compensation in a federal workforce that has been something of a bulwark against the increase in economic inequality.

Federal employees with a high school diploma or less earn on average 53 percent more than peers with similar education levels in the private sector, according to a 2017 study by the Congressional Budget Office. College graduates earn about 21 percent more than their private-sector counterparts, while people with advanced degrees earn 18 percent less in the government.

Unions vow to fight Trump’s pay-for-performance plan for federal employees 

Washington Post, By Joe Davidson, February 9, 2018 at 4

Federal labor organizations are vowing to fight the Trump administration’s plan to develop a pay-for-performance system for federal employees.

It would be a “nail in the coffin of the apolitical, professional civil service,” said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal union.

Reacting to an Associated Press report that a pay-for-performance proposal will be included in the budget plan President Trump will release Monday, Cox asked if anyone wants “a system that allows financial rewards — funded by taxpayers — to be provided exclusively to those deemed loyal to the administration?

“Does anybody want a pay system that denies pay adjustments to people considered disloyal to the administration? Pity the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] scientist whose work demonstrates the existence of climate change.”

Moving to pay-for-performance, instead of the current system in which tenure has considerable influence on pay increases, would be a substantial change in the government’s salary structure, but it would not be the first time it has been tried. The National Security Personnel System was used at the Defense Department during the administration of President George W. Bush. That system came under harsh criticism for unfairness from labor organizations and Democrats, and it was abolished by Congress.

“Congress repealed authority for that system after just three years because it resulted in tremendous pay discrimination against women and racial minorities,” Cox said. “These subjective pay systems open the door to corruption, favoritism and discrimination.”

Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, agreed with Cox and said pay-for-performance is a way to cut federal pay. The president’s proposal reportedly would save $10 billion over 10 years and would apply to about 1.5 million federal workers out of about 2 million. It is not clear who would not be included in the president’s plan.

“It is very simple: Performance pay does not work in the federal government because money is always drying up, and performance pay is the first thing to go,” Erwin said. “Employees correctly view the potential of performance bonuses as empty promises.

“In reality, performance-based pay in the federal government is a cost-containment tool, nothing more,” he added. “Once federal workers’ pay becomes ambiguous, it become easier to whittle away.”

The Office of Management and Budget did not respond to requests for comment on the president’s plan.
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