President Donald Trump issued an executive order Dec. 28 formalizing the 2019 federal employee pay freeze that he announced his intent to enact four months earlier.

Employee organizations decried the freeze as adding insult to injury during a partial government shutdown that has kept hundreds of thousands of feds out of work for over a week.

“This is just pouring salt into the wound,” Tony Reardon, National Treasury Employees Union national president, said in a statement. “It is shocking that federal employees are taking yet another financial hit. As if missed paychecks and working without pay were not enough, now they have been told that they don’t even deserve a modest pay increase.”

“Both the shutdown and the pay freeze impose real economic costs on federal employees and our country,” Ken Thomas, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association national president, said in a statement. “Both undermine the effectiveness of the work our government does — from ensuring the national defense and homeland security to safeguarding taxpayer dollars from fraud — by damaging its ability to recruit and retain a highly qualified and talented workforce. 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.”

The pay freeze is effective starting with the first pay period of the new year, though Congress still has the opportunity to counteract it if they pass the 1.9 percent federal pay increase included in the original Senate version of general government appropriations.

“Congress still has the ability to reject this administration decision," Reardon said. “Federal employees are bearing the brunt of this shutdown and their financial concerns are increasing the longer this drags on. NTEU strongly believes they deserve an increase in their pay and will continue working to make that happen.”

But Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told reporters on a Dec. 19 press call that passing the pay raise after the start of the new year will likely prove more complicated, as lawmakers will have to work out whether and how to provide back pay increases for all wages in 2019.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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