(Washington)—As the largest federal-sector union representing 600,000 employees in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National President John Gage took administration representatives to task for their attack on worker rights and collective bargaining during a panel discussion on the future of civil service.
The panel discussion, sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government and the Washington Post was the second event in a series of discussions that will examine civil service and how new personnel rules and policies will impact federal employees. Joining Gage on the panel were Clay Johnson, deputy director for management, Office of Management and Budget, and David Walker, comptroller general of the United States.
During the discussion, Johnson and Walker touted proposed administration legislation that would replace the current GS system with a pay-for-performance system that would give managers unprecedented leeway in determining the pay and working conditions of employees and virtually eliminate due process for adverse actions.
“One of the critical items that is missing from this pay-for-performance system is a real shot at promotion for hard-working employees,” said Gage. “This new system ignores this as a motivator. Under the GS system, employees were motivated because they believed they had a true chance to receive a promotion. Why are we throwing out things that work?”
Despite promises from Johnson and Walker that managers would be held accountable and subject to tough evaluations under the new proposals, Gage maintained that the system would be ripe for abuse.
“Under this new system, cronyism is not just a fear, it’s a promise. Due to unparalleled management control, supervisors would be allowed to reward favored employees with performance awards and pay raises while other top performers would run the risk of not receiving any pay raises because they fall outside of a manager’s inner circle,” he said.
Gage also took issue with Walker’s assertions that poor performers are not properly dealt with in the current GS system. “Unacceptable performers are fired,” Gage told Walker. “It’s not factual that poor performers are allowed to languish in jobs that could be held by better performers.”
For his part, Walker acknowledged that the infrastructure is not yet in place for all federal agencies to move to a pay-for-performance system. In regards to the taxpayer dollars needed to implement the proposed changes, Walker said, “I don’t know if we are going to save money on this new system.”
“What you are saying is not what we are seeing,” said Gage to administration representatives. “The administration needs to back off attacking employee rights and collective bargaining and work at true collaboration with employees and their unions if they want to modernize agency personnel systems. So far, this hasn’t been the case.”