In three executive orders signed May 25, 2018, President Donald Trump took aim at making federal employees easier to fire while cutting back on union time.
The first order fulfils a longstanding goal of the Trump administration in making it easier for the government to fire poor performers from federal positions. The order would limit the amount of time an employee under investigation for misconduct could spend on probation and encourage firings.
The second order specifically targets the use of official time, which allows federal employees to conduct union activities such as representing employees in disputes and negotiating contracts with the agency, by stating that federal employees must spend at least 75 percent of their time doing government work.
Official time use has recently come under fire by both OPM and members of Congress, who say that the rising amount of time spent per employee is a waste of taxpayer money. However, many experts have said that current methods for measuring official time use are likely wildly inaccurate.
The use of official time is protected under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, and the amount of official time used by employees within an agency is usually up to the negotiations between unions and the agency.
The third of the executive orders calls for the renegotiation of such contracts, placing the responsibility for the negotiating strategy with the Office of Management and Budget within the White House and requiring that union contracts are posted online.
“These Executive Orders are about protecting taxpayers’ dollars, including those of our dedicated federal employees, and putting those resources to use in the most efficient and effective way possible,” said OPM Director Jeff Pon. “By holding poor performers accountable, reforming the use of taxpayer-funded union time and focusing negotiations on issues that matter, we are advancing our efforts to elevate the federal workforce.”
Federal employee unions have opposed most of the Office of Personnel Management's proposed changes to civil service policies, but a public service organization claims there is common ground.
The American Federation of Government Employees, however, called the orders “hellbent on replacing a civil service that works for all taxpayers with a political service that serves at its whim.”
“President Trump’s executive orders do nothing to help federal workers do their jobs better. In fact, they do the opposite by depriving workers of their rights to address and resolve workplace issues such as sexual harassment, racial discrimination, retaliation against whistleblowers, improving workplace health and safety, enforcing reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, and so much more,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “These executive orders strip agencies of their right to bargain terms and conditions of employment and replace it with a politically charged scheme to fire employees without due process.”