Federal workers just can’t catch a break.
In the middle of a partial shutdown of the federal government, President Donald Trump ordered a pay freeze for federal workers late Friday, blocking an automatic pay increase from going into effect Jan. 1.
Trump said months ago that he was seeking the freeze. It was ultimately made possible by Congress, which never passed a pay hike before the end of the year. The GOP-controlled Senate had signed off on a bipartisan 1.9 percent increase, but the GOP-controlled House left it unaddressed.
If Trump had done nothing, the federal pay formula would have enacted an automatic 2.1 percent pay increase. But the inaction by Congress gave him an opening to make the increase zero through executive order.
It’s likely that the House will agree to a pay raise after Democrats take over as the majority on Jan. 3. Federal employee unions will press for any raise to be retroactive to the first of the year if an increase gets passed.
Groups representing federal employees said Trump’s freeze comes as added insult to the shutdown. Roughly one-fourth of the federal government is not funded at the moment, as the president demands $5 billion in federal funds for a wall along the southern border that he used to say Mexico was going to pay for.
Roughly 420,000 federal employees are working without pay, and another 380,000 have been furloughed and are temporarily out of a job. Although lawmakers have typically approved backpay retroactively after previous shutdowns, there is no guarantee a divided Congress would do so this time.
NARFE, a group representing current and retired federal workers, said the implementation of the pay freeze is another sign of Trump’s “disdain” for government employees.
“Refusing to provide a nominal raise for our nation’s hardworking federal employees amid a partial government shutdown shows clear contempt for those who carry out public service,” Ken Thomas, the group’s president, said in a statement.
Tony Reardon, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal workers, said Trump was “pouring salt into the wound” while workers go without paychecks.
As HuffPost reported Thursday, the partial shutdown is just the latest chapter in Trump’s long-running battle with civil servants who do the government’s work. In addition to the pay freeze, his administration has also tried to peel back collective bargaining rights and increase workers’ pension contributions.
Many workers and their representatives bristle at middle-class government employees being lumped in with the “swamp” that Trump said needs draining.
“It’s almost as if we have an administration that is at war with its own workforce,” one union official told HuffPost earlier this week. “It’s been an ongoing assault.”
Trump has warned that the shutdown could drag on ”for a very long time″ if he doesn’t get the wall money he wants. Democrats have said they will produce a bill to reopen the government as soon as they take over the House next week, but so far they have shown few signs of acquiescing to the president’s demands.
Members of the military are not subject to the pay freeze. They will be receiving a 2.6 percent pay increase next year, even though Trump falsely told them to their faces that they would be getting 10 percent.
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