For years now, the beleaguered federal workforce has paid too high a price for the political ineptitude of Congress.
Hard working and loyal public servants should never be used as political pawns in an ideological chess match. Feds are not sacrificial lambs that lawmakers can conveniently use to cover up their own conspicuous failure to govern.
The current government shutdown is just the latest body blow to feds who are already on the ropes and gasping for breath. That’s why our longstanding and unmet priorities should be given serious consideration during negotiations to end the fiscal stalemate.
Champions of federal workers have a rare window of opportunity to fight for our priorities as part of any broad bipartisan agreement.
- So what do feds want?
Following are five priorities for the President to put on the negotiating table:
1) Reopening Government. Feds want to return to work ASAP. The ongoing shutdown has not only caused our bills to pile up, but also caused an unnecessary major setback to the important work of serving the public. The sooner government reopens the sooner feds can get back to doing the people’s business.
2) Fair Pay. In addition to shutdown back pay, feds want to melt away the multi-year pay freeze imposed by Congress. We deserve a retroactive pay increase at a modest level for the past three years in which federal pay was frozen solid. Feds also deserve to be paid on par with our private sector counterparts, many of whom earn more for doing the same or similar work, according to several studies.
3) Stopping the Sequester. Feds have labored under the sinister sequester and draconian budget cuts for far too long. Most feds must not only do their own jobs but also those of co-workers who have departed government service without being replaced.
It has been reported that only one federal employee is being hired for every three that leave government. This poses severe challenges to providing critically important government services which the American people have come to rely upon and expect.
4) Work-Life Balance. In the 21st century workplace many feds desire a greater work-life balance. This has been shown to increase productivity and morale while decreasing absenteeism and employee indifference.
Incentive programs such as telework, flexible schedules, and even a “results-only work environment” (ROWE) should be universally adopted to keep pace with changes to the modern workplace. Agency leaders and managers need to understand that work is what one does, not necessarily where one does it.
That’s why a results-only work ethic should replace the antiquated punch-the-clock mentality conducive to a brick and mortar work structure.
5) IT Investments. Last but not least, feds need cutting-edge IT tools to serve taxpayers more effectively, efficiently and expeditiously. The adoption of IT advancements – or lack thereof – can make or break the popular concept of doing more with less.
CIOs need more funding to leverage new technology for improving mission critical programs – such as cyber security, cloud computing, Big Data analysis and Open Government.
It’s also time to move beyond BYOD to an all encompassing mobile/digital work culture. This means agencies should ditch the BlackBerry and provide feds with the latest smartphone and tablet technology.
These practical IT investments will yield significant cost savings for taxpayers over the long run, while simultaneously making government more open and accessible immediately.
Fighting for Feds
In short, these five priority issues must be placed on the negotiating table and fought for by the President and other friends of federal employees. If not, then there will be little chance of achieving real fairness for the federal workforce.
It was refreshing, albeit surprising, that the House recently showed that it can in fact do something positive legislatively. The House leadership acted with lightening speed by approving furlough back pay for feds.
Therefore, why can’t Congress emulate that example by approving other key priorities of federal civil servants?
The federal worker priorities listed above are reasonable, rational and long overdue. They would result in a federal workforce that is more productive, accountable and provides better service to the American people.
Moreover, approving these priorities would also offer strong incentives to attract a new generation of young people to federal service. This is especially important as the so-called “retirement tsunami” and related “brain drain” negatively impact the federal workforce.
That’s why fiscal negotiations between the President and Congress provide a promising forum to fight for federal worker priorities.
Isn’t it about time that feds were treated with the respect, recognition and dignity we deserve?
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* All views and opinions are those of the author only.