February 09, 2003
Diane S. Witiak
(202) 639-6419

AFGE Gives Bush The "Red Light"

(Washington, D.C.)—Using the same “traffic light” performance measurements the Administration has established to “rate” agencies, members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and its President Bobby L. Harnage, Sr., gave President Bush a glaring red light on his performance. AFGE issued its failing report card at the opening session of the union’s annual Legislative Conference on Capitol Hill as a result of Bush’s failure to:

(1) Resolve the government’s human capital crisis; (2) support a civil service system based on merit principles—not favoritism and cronyism; (3) uphold current law to close the gap between federal and private sector pay; (4) recognize the inherent dangers of turning over close to one million federal jobs to politically well-connected profiteers, using a pro-contractor/anti-taxpayer competitive process; and, (5) respect the merits of civil service protections and collective bargaining rights in establishing a work environment that attracts and retains the best and brightest to government service.

“At the very moment that America’s armed forces are preparing to engage in overseas combat, Bush is threatening to privatize one million jobs, including the Department of the Army’s entire civilian infrastructure (220,000 jobs) just to repay his political cronies with lucrative contracts,” Harnage said.

“All Americans suffer when the federal government is unable to attract and retain the dedicated workers necessary to deliver critical services,” stated Harnage. “The Administration’s radical privatization agenda exacerbates the government’s ‘human capital crisis’ by destroying the prospects for career development, stability, or fair treatment of federal employees and potential recruits.”

“President Bush’s red light should not stand for failure. Instead it should signal the urgent need for a screeching halt by agencies to recklessly rush head on into the privatization of hundreds of thousands of federal jobs to profit-driven corporations,” Harnage emphasized.

Harnage pointed out that by privatizing up to a million government jobs, using rewritten, pro-contractor rules of competition, the tradition of maintaining a professional civil service outside the realm of politics will be undermined. “Politics will determine whose job is privatized, who gets the contract and how much the contract will be worth,” he added.

AFGE believes the primary goal of the Administration’s use of the term “management flexibilities” is to eliminate current civil service protections that ensure federal employees are hired, promoted, paid, disciplined and managed according to merit system principles. “In its place,” stated Harnage, “will be a system that allows political appointees and managers to reward individual employees based upon subjective judgments of performance.”

“Without collective bargaining rights and civil service protections, it will be impossible for the government to attract and retain quality employees, and our national security will suffer,” Harnage concluded. “America will not be safer if the guardians of our liberty are treated like second-class workers; it will actually be less secure because the best and brightest will leave government service rather than be subjected to such substandard treatment.”

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