WASHINGTON, D.C.—This Labor Day, AFGE National President John Gage asks President Bush to take the occasion to reconsider the administration’s policies on the civil service. Yesterday’s White House announcement of the president’s intention to disallow the pay raise accorded by law to federal workers, according to Gage, is yet another in a string of decisions that indicate a misguided policy that demoralizes the civil service – a valuable asset to the American people.
“We need to make Congress and the president understand that employees of the federal government are dedicated to the well-being of our nation,” says John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). “We are not the enemy. But from the view on Capitol Hill, you might think otherwise, as bill after bill provides for the erosion of civil service protections, the elimination of union rights, and little accountability for private-sector contractors.
“Government employees provide our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with supplies, and logistical and technical expertise,” Gage explains. “They were among the first to arrive on the scenes of destruction on September 11th, 2001. They also get the Social Security checks out on time, and take care of the medical needs of our veterans. Many of these employees are themselves veterans of the armed services—whose hiring preferences some in the administration would like to see eliminated.”
In place of a politically neutral, public-sector civil service, the current administration seems hell-bent to move government’s work for the American people to private contractors, “who may soon be the Pac Man that ate the civil service,” according to Gage. The irony is that no research exists to support the assertion that contractors save the public money. Our members know that they can do this work better—and ultimately more economically—than the poorly compensated employees of corporate contractors.
Congress will have the opportunity to cast aside the president’s 2-percent solution in favor of the 4.1 percent increase included in the Transportation-Treasury appropriation, to be taken up when the body reconvenes after Labor Day. AFGE has worked with the House leadership to include the 4.1 percent increase, which brings the civilian pay raise in line with that proposed for uniformed military, in the appropriation bill as it emerged from committee, and will continue to fight to see the bill through to votes on the floor of the House and Senate.